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What We Talk About When We Talk About Blood

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On the last day, he wakes up before the alarm, unsure what woke him until he realizes it’s the utter silence. He can’t think of another time he was ever the only living creature in this house. It’s a chilly feeling and as soon as he places it, he knows he’s not going to be getting back to sleep anytime soon.

He wakes up and gets ready for the day slowly and methodically, cleaning up after himself more carefully than usual. The bed made, each breakfast dish washed and put back in its assigned place. He’s not sure how long it will be until someone comes along but he doesn’t want them to find a mess when they do.

Showered and dressed in comfortable clothes for the series of long plane trips he has ahead of him, Will sits down to write letters. He’s put this off as long as he can.

I’m sorry I can’t stay to see the paperwork through but staying here has gotten too difficult. I think everything is taken care of now but if there are any questions or anything left unresolved, everything is yours and Walter’s. The lawyer knows that and he shouldn’t give you any trouble, but show him this if you need to. I’m taking everything I need with me. I’ll be out of touch, but I’ll think of you both. Be happy, Molly. It’s all I want for you.

It’s not enough, but nothing would be. It will do. He doesn’t write to Walter, doesn’t want to stir up anything when he gets the impression Walter’s already starting to forget. He’s young, he mends more easily, it may be best to let him be.

He turns to the letter he’ll send to Alana, courtesy of Margot since the two of them seem to prefer to stay out of the country and hard to find. It will take some time to make it through whatever layers of gatekeepers protect the Verger-Blooms’ location, but he’s sure it will get to them eventually. Her position atop the Verger empire means Margot can’t ever disappear entirely.

I’m going away for a while. I’m sorry I couldn’t see you again before I went. You can come back whenever you want. You’ll be safe now. If you can, please try to get Jack to let sleeping dogs lie. Everyone’s going to be safer and happier if he finds somewhere else to spend his attention. I know it’s a lot to ask but it’s for the best. When you come back, if you want, please get in touch with my neighbor Kathy, contact information enclosed. She’s taken in a few of my strays but I told her I thought you might come calling for Winston. He always liked you and Applesauce. I think he would make an excellent Verger-Bloom if you’ll have him.

He considers leaving a note for Jack but there’s no point, really. Jack’s going to come looking, or he’s not, whatever Will might say now. Their best bet is probably to just lay low and keep out of sight until Jack retires. Whoever comes after him won’t be as focused on them, won’t take it as a personal affront. It’s the best Will can hope for at the moment.

He finishes packing: one small checked bag, a carry-on to get him through the long series of flights and layovers. He’s not taking much; what he needs is already waiting for him.

He tucks Will Graham’s identification away in a pocket of the suitcase. It may come in handy again someday. Connor’s ID and boarding passes slide into his pocket neatly. A drive to Bangor, a short flight to Atlanta, a long layover, a red-eye to Buenos Aires where Hannibal will pick up him up for the drive to Rosario.

Almost a full twenty-four hours’ travel and it will be exhausting but it still seems too easy, after so long. He still thinks something is going to go wrong. He digs through the carry-on for his medication and dry-swallows an Ativan to keep from losing his mind before he even leaves the house.

It’s too early to leave but everything’s done and he can’t sit still. He walks through the house one more time, making sure everything is put away and locked up and kept safe for Molly. He closes the front door carefully and stands out on the porch, looking out over the trees. He tucks the letters into the mailbox for pickup. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and dials the only number in its memory.

“Hey. Good morning.”

“Good morning, Will. Is everything all right? I thought you’d be too busy to call this morning.” Hannibal sounds sleepy even though it’s later in Argentina. It must be a terribly lazy life he’s leading. A lazy life sounds nice; Will wouldn’t mind some laziness for a while.

“I’m packed and I’m standing on my front porch getting ready to lock up my house and I thought I’d better give you one more chance to back out. Tell me now if you don’t want me to get on the plane.”

“Did you really believe I might tell you not to come?”

Will’s anxious, excited, a bundle of nerves that need calming. “Not really, but I’d like to hear it from you. This might still all be a horrible mistake. Last chance to call it off.”

The chuckle on the phone line helps dissipate some of his tension. “I am eagerly awaiting all the horrible mistakes we can make together. Lock the door and throw away the key and get going. I will be extremely displeased if you miss your flight.”

“God forbid you be displeased.” Will doesn’t realize he’s smiling now until he hears it in his own voice, the anxious whirl in his stomach starting to calm. “Can’t have that. Okay, I’m leaving now.” He lets the next words roll around in his head for a moment before he says them. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“And the day after that, and the one after that. If you can refrain from throwing us both over the first cliff you find.”

Will toys with the notion of making a new rule that Hannibal is not allowed to refer to their impromptu cliff dive more than once a week, but keeps it to himself. He has a feeling it’s going to be a bit harder to make and enforce rules once he’s in Hannibal’s domain. Best to save up his influence for the rules he really does need to make. Besides, he’s pretty sure that “you tried to cut open my skull and eat my brain while I was still using it” still trumps “cliff dive” if they’re really going to get into who did what to who.

They are going to be such a disaster together. He can't remember ever wanting anything more in his life than he wants that disaster, tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that, a whole string of days stretching into infinity, the whole wonderful catastrophe that the two of them are going to be.

He’s ready to leave.

Will ends the call and finds himself feeling suddenly light, almost giddy, the morning’s weight of anxiety at least temporarily gone. It’s some combination of psychopharmacology and Hannibal’s effect on him and simply being at the end, finally, of a wait that felt like forever. He’ll take it, whatever the cause is.

He locks the door and slips the key under the loose brick where Molly will know to look for it if she’s the next one to come to the house. He picks up his bags and walks down the steps quickly, not looking back to the empty and shuttered place where he used to live, that is no longer his home.

He drives to Bangor, a long drive with the windows down and Abigail in the passenger’s seat beaming at him. He finds an unsavory looking neighborhood in which to leave the car, doors unlocked, window cracked. Someone will find it and claim it for their own, or take it apart, he doesn’t care as long as it vanishes as effectively as the rest of Will Graham is about to. He walks briskly away and several blocks later, flags a taxi to take him the rest of the way to the airport.

The security line is the worst part of the whole thing. He’s certain at any moment someone is going to flag him somehow. They’ll spot the false ID, or someone will recognize him despite the beard and his best attempts to be inconspicuous, or he’ll raise attention when he opts for the pat-down instead of the scanner due to the large quantities of metal holding his bones together that he suspects would light up the scanner like a Christmas tree.

He’s poised for disaster but it passes him by, luck or false bravado carrying him through security without a screw-up until he emerges on the other side in the hustle and anonymity of a busy airport. From there, the rest is simple. He’s flown enough for work that he can do airports in his sleep and flying itself no longer makes him nervous. He finds his gate and settles in, fires off a text to let Hannibal know he’s through security, and settles in to wait.

It’s tempting to pace the terminal but not a good way to lay low, so he buys a newspaper and flips through it idly. He resists the urge to leaf through Tattle Crime but is relieved to know that if he’s in there at all, it’s at least not on the front page. Not that he really thinks Freddie Lounds is ever going to let it go, but at this point he’ll settle for being fine-print-story-on-page-12 news.

Eventually the plane boards and takes off, and Will Graham’s life falls away with an effortlessness that belies how hard it was to reach this moment of flight. He watches out the window until the plane overcomes gravity, until the ground is well out of sight and his view is all horizon and possibility, before he flips the window shade shut and brushes up on his Spanish for the rest of that first flight.

There’s a long layover in Atlanta, hours to kill in the Purgatory of the airport terminal. He occupies himself watching people come and go and seeing what he can intuit about them from these brief slices of their lives passing before him. It’s a nice change, using his skills to study someone’s life, and not their death. Will hasn’t given much thought to what he’s going to do with himself in Argentina - hasn’t really let himself believe he’d ever get there - but he wonders if there might be some way to turn his abilities to some less bloody end. Some way to help people that doesn’t require those people to die before he can do them any good. He files the thought away for consideration.

Eventually it’s time for the long, late flight to Buenos Aires. He waits, again, for the hammer to fall but it doesn’t. No one pulls him out of line or looks at him suspiciously. They board and in the last few moments before the admonishment to turn off cell phones, he sends a text: I’m on my way. Sleep well. I’ll be home soon.

The plane lifts off and he watches again as the lights from the ground disappear rapidly. He does his best to get some sleep on the flight but it’s fitful and he ends up passing most of the time by the river in his head, with Abigail. Her primary concern appears to be how soon they can get a dog, and it occurs to Will, not for the first time, that Abigail's presence in his mind is a bit more revealing than he’s strictly comfortable with.

Probably he should be feeling guiltier, sorrier, remorseful, something. And he imagines he will, sooner or later, on the bad days. He’s not young enough or love-blinded enough to think there won’t be bad days. But at the moment he can’t seem to summon any of those feelings. He just wants to get through customs without a hitch. He wants Hannibal. He wants a dog, eventually. Probably two dogs. And he wants to sleep.

There’s only one of those he can do anything about just then, so he keeps shifting in search of comfort and eventually manages to string together a few hours of mostly uninterrupted dozing.

Will wakes up with daylight beginning to stream in through the airplane windows, to the crackly indistinct sounds of the pilot making announcements. By the time he’s awake enough to process words he’s already missed the English version of the announcement and they’re on to the Spanish version, and so far he reads Spanish much better than he hears it. But he picks up a few key words and the sense of increased activity in the cabin, flight attendants bustling through picking up trash, people stretching their legs in the aisles after a long uncomfortable night of being cramped into the airplane seats.

He sits up and groans as his shoulder protests, and starts to put himself in order. He reaches for his carry-on and packs back into it the items he’d taken out during flight, books and the case for his glasses and a few other odds and ends. He double-checks his customs paperwork and his baggage claim ticket.

Everything’s in order. He’s as ready as he’s going to be. He watches through the window as the ground below grows more distinct by the second. The plane tilts and turns in its descent, enough for the passengers to feel it. There’s a brief moment like being suspended weightless at the top of a rollercoaster. He closes his eyes and lets the familiar sensation hold him, tipping him slightly forward as the plane descends into Buenos Aires, down to where Hannibal will be waiting for him.

Heading toward the rest of his life as fast as gravity will take him, Will Graham falls one last time.