His hands are covered in blood. There’s snow beneath his feet, melting in his hair, gritty and dirty under his fingernails, his knees sinking into cold, red turning to pink on the ground around him, and he knows where he buried them, but it doesn’t matter, it never matters, because there’s always another pair of eyes to judge him and make him feel like shit, there’s always another hardware store, there’s always another itch in the back of his head--
“A hammer. Angry at his sister-- no, his mother. He’ll take every woman who ever reminds him of her. He’ll take trophies, that’s how you’ll catch him. I-- I make thread out of their hair, they’ll love me, they’ll have to love me, this time those bitches will have to stay. This is my design.”
Will opens his eyes, and his wrists hurt from where he’s slammed them, unconscious, against the plastic that separates him from Hannibal Lecter. The skin above one of his veins is split, blood trickling thinly down his sleeve in a treacherous stream. He knows without looking, or even really thinking about it, that he’s hard.
“Was all that for me, Will?” says Hannibal, leaning back in his chair, “How very droll.”
“Not guilty,” says Will’s attorney, and he’s good, but he’s not quite good enough to hide the disbelief in his voice.
“Not guilty,” repeats Will, snarls, lips pulled back from his teeth and bored of trying to hide it, the man he’s not supposed to be with so many bodies hanging around his neck, and--
--and tries not to scrub at where splits his lip for a second time, blood running thick down his chin, his lawyer drawing back, eyes gone wide, does not move his hand to close up a war-wound he made with his incisor, re-living a spree killer’s crimes.
“The flowers in your window box have an insect infestation,” says Will, eyes turned flat and bright in the light from the window. His hands are cuffed beneath the table, because Frederick Chilton is not a man who learns his lessons well. His voice is distant, almost trembling. Chilton is sitting too close to him. There’s snow on the ground outside. Will cannot see the window box from here.
“And what makes you think that?” says Chilton, with the naked glee of someone who thinks he’s chipping away at marble and started to find the angel underneath, and Will shrugs, says, “Your staff talk. I guess they think you don’t notice things.”
“What do you think I don’t notice?” says Chilton, and Will’s eyes slide, unseeing, over the carpet, passing off, he thinks, the twitch at the corner of his mouth as a meds side-effect, scratches half-heartedly at the scabs on his wrists with the edge of the cuffs, hidden from view under the table, says, “Doctor, I have no idea.”
“You don’t look well,” says Hannibal, “You ought to eat more.”
“I barely remembered to eat when you were the only person who cooked for me,” says Will, which is a slip, probably. He’s lost weight like he’s shed everything else; friends, pure motives, freedom. His face is gaunt and his eyes are haunted. His lawyer said -- with a tell that he thinks Will hasn’t noticed -- that it’s good. That innocent men shouldn’t look great in a courtroom. Being imprisoned for a crime you didn’t commit would affect anyone’s health. But he thinks Will hasn’t noticed his tell. That’s the other thing Will’s noticed, about being the Serial Killer of the Decade-- everyone’s forgotten the skills that allowed him to be the alleged Ted Bundy of his age for so long, uncaught. They smell crazy on you and suddenly you’re an idiot child with blood on your teeth. Even Jack’s thinking it, Will knows. He smells like death, and it’s turned him invisible.
“I shall have to ask if I can bring you something,” says Hannibal, and Will swallows hard, remembers that there is at least someone in Will’s life who knows exactly what it is, who it is, that he put in a box, locked tight.
“You try that,” says Will, and does not slam his palm against the glass, not even when--
--not even when Hannibal smiles, exactly like he did the first time.
“What happened to your wrist?” Jack Crawford asks. It’s blunt, accusing, and Will pulls down his jumpsuit sleeve, smooth as silk, belying the way his mouth twitched, deceptive, at the corner.
It’s fortunate, Will knows, that Jack only saw the one wrist. He’s discovered precisely his worth to Jack Crawford, exactly how far he can go before weighed and found wanting, and, above all, how much damage is too much damage to the ace in a hole that Jack keeps in a cage. If Jack finds out, he’ll stop. It’s imperative to Will as few things are, now, that he not stop.
“Oh,” says Will, shrugging, “This and that.”
“I’m surprised Jack let you anywhere near me,” says Will, and Alana smiles, says, “I know. It was supposed to be Hannibal.”
Her eyes are sad, but Will, as always, has no way of knowing if that’s just how they look now or if it’s just how they look when they’re looking at him. Her dress is dark, and he feels it tug at his tongue to say something about mourning. She always brings him photos of his dogs. Being around her makes him ache. But Hannibal visits him weekly, and thus the sting of bitterness she brings is not new.
“His Uncle is visiting,” she says, “I met him. He’s lovely. Very European. There was something a little-- but it was nothing, I think. I can see what shaped Hannibal in him.”
“A little?” says Will, and waits for her to fill the silence. He wants to feel sick at himself. He wants to be sickened, watching himself push people down the paths he needs them to tread, pushing them because they trust him or love him or both, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t feel sickened. He doesn’t feel, that mechanism’s snapped or broken, self-preservation has rooted it out and waved it goodbye. Hannibal Lecter did not create him, this much he knows. He’s doing this to himself. Maybe, if he had enough hatred left in him to go around, he could direct at himself. But he’s a monster in a cage, and he wants out. He doesn’t feel sick, can’t afford to hate, waits.
“His eyes,” Alana says eventually, “There was something off about his eyes.”
“So instead I got you,” says Will, and he watches her smile.
Alana puts her hand up against the glass, and Will twitches to move forward, flinches with his whole body when he remembers what it would mean, to do this twice. He makes his choice. (Made it.) He rolls the die. He wants out of this goddamn cage.
“I think Jack wants people around me he knows can beat someone to death if necessary,” Will says, and would have instantly regretted, if he still had it in him, if he still knew how. He’s not really qualified to measure regrets by any normal standard now, anyway.
“What do you see?” commands Chilton, and it is a command. He’s earnest, that’s the worst thing. He means it. He thinks he can outwit Will Graham with a goddamn Rorschach test.
It’s not a bad strategy. Almost. Frederick Chilton leaves behind him a path littered with almosts. Maybe the best way to trick Will would be to push him into the unconscious. To trick his mind, to trick his tongue, to push that chain of association until his secrets were laid bare as if upon a platter. (Hah.) It wouldn’t be what Will would do, but Will wouldn’t need to. Will has never needed to. Hence, in so many ways, why he’s sitting in this chair.
Handcuffed to, he means. He means handcuffed.
(One sick simple snap and that pencil could gush geysers from this idiot’s neck. Oh, the things Will knows.)
“An apple,” says Will. The Garden of Eden. Let’s watch Chilton parse that.
“Don’t move,” says the guard they should never have let into his cell.
(He is, among many other things, too slow.)
“Put your hands behind your back,” says the man Will could have killed already.
(They’ve learnt, since the last time, or, at least, a little. Chilton’s arrogance is his eternal downfall, and he still favours cuffing Will’s hands across his front. Men Crawford send are much more clever, or more angry, or both. Will’s become used to hands on him that clutch too hard, like he’s a dog that needs shaking, fingers digging into the back of his neck and nails catching on the skin there. He’s lost count of the number of times he’s reached to touch the skin of his throat and found raised lines there. Sometimes, he re-opens them himself. The last hurrah.)
“Don’t you fucking dare open your mouth, you deviant freak shit,” says the piece of fucking meat that Will can already taste in his mouth.
(Hot and salty and living. Will can hardly breathe through the sting of it.)
Instead, Will meets his eyes, and tastes a victory that, although bitter, is still a victory, because the guard--
--the guard, his mouth twisting like he can hear every depraved thing Will’s thinking, the guard looks away first.
“I brought you something to eat,” says Hannibal, “Finger food, of course.”
(He looks a little like he’s laughing at his own joke. Will can empathise.)
"I’d rather have the fork," says Will, with a quick sharp incline of his head that’s a classic side-effect of Chilton’s favoured anti-psychotics.
It’s all performance, of course. Will isn’t taking them and doesn’t need them besides— he’s channelling the urge to do violence into verbal and physical tics that unsettle Chilton enough to throw him off course. There’s a camera pointed directly into his cell, which also explains the fingers that he’s tapping over one kneecap and the occasional stuttering. And the Oscar goes to—
"I would rather you have the fork, too," says Hannibal, and there’s a tiny smile on his face that whispers we’re both in on this most fabulous joke, "But I’m afraid that you aren’t allowed. Finger-food only, William."
"I have asked you to stop calling me that," says Will, but he accepts the small plastic container, does not press his hand far enough into the slot to catch hot flesh against his fingertips.
"Yes, you have," says Hannibal, and pauses significantly, and Will’s laugh rips out of his body like it’s betraying him, like he can’t quite manage to hold it in.
"Did you hunt this one yourself?" asks Will, fingers unsteady on the lid and that, maybe, maybe, isn’t a performance, because as time bears on he’s having more and more difficulty at hiding the things he always used to at least try to, the way his lips pull back from his teeth when he makes a threat and how even his body wants to shake itself clean when Hannibal steps close to him, longing to break down the glass between them and go to town. It’s such a thin barrier, such a little thing to separate them, with all their secrets and their lies. But, ultimately, thankfully, it’s nowhere near enough.
"Of course," says Hannibal, and Will laughs again, says, "Did you wound it, first?”
Will looks up at that, deliberately making his fabled eye-contact, his eyes dark as they have only ever been since he’s been caged like an animal, since his eyes have started to betray the animal inside the small pale skin of Will Graham. The nature of the beast is a nature very like Hannibal Lecter’s own, and Will does not let his lips pull back from his teeth, knowing as he does that this is the most beautiful moment of Hannibal’s life, because—
—Will slips a little meat into his mouth, chews, swallows, and smiles.
"Well," he says, leaning into the glass, misting it with his breath, performance, for a hot wet moment, slipping, "Tell me about your hunt, Dr Lecter. Rifle or knife?"
(Everything is a performance, if you survive long enough. A lesson built only for two.)
“You look like you want to tear my throat out with your teeth,” says Freddie Lounds.
For a start, Will does not say.
You’d look like you’d be pretty into it, he does not say, either, and not only because into it is the sort of casual slang lexicon he’s picked up from Beverly, feeling, still, foreign on his tongue, no matter what he does. Blood slips in and out of his mouth like wine, but leave him to speak to a beautiful woman a handful of grasps at years younger than him, and he’s tied himself in knots. Murder, he knows all too well, is always easier. A girl’s neck is simpler to strangle than to kiss. Fear is more naked than love, and more feral.
There’s a word for what he is, now. Feral.
“What would you do if I tried,” he says, instead. Slipping. Freudian. Slipped.
“Call the guards,” she says, “Watch you twitch on the floor once they’ve stopped stamping on your face. I’m using the present tense, you see, Will, because that’s going to happen eventually. I’m looking forward to it.”
Now is not the time to forget himself. If she believed him, if he could make her believe him, it could save his life. He’s hellbound, chair-bound, and Freddie has a vulture’s instincts. If he can make her think he’s worth more alive than dead, he might become more than prey in her eyes. If he can keep his mask on for one fucking conversation, he might get out of this cell with what he had when they shoved him in there, kicking and screaming.
Will pulls back his lips from his teeth, snarling, wild, simple, says, “Oh, Miss Lounds. Me, too.”