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The Joy of Creation

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The ocean spat them out. Will remembers it distantly, almost as if it were someone else's memories. Him writhing on the beach, gasping, gurgling screams of terror as if he were still in the deep. Just a foot away, Hannibal sat, half leaning back on one hand, other hand cradling his right side. He stared at Will, expression plain but eyes bright with mirth. Will craned back his head, saw Hannibal in the dawnlight haloed by grey-pink sky. He screamed loud and long, and finally Hannibal smiled.

            A long time later, he said:

            "You were so alive. So alive and gripped by raw trauma, like we were still at the mercy of the sea. I was pleased to see you so tenacious, Will."

            Will didn't feel tenacious – he felt ill, and hurt, at first. Yes but only at first.

                                                                       *                                                                        

Hannibal can probably smell it on him – desperation for stability. Something substantial to hold onto, cling to, after tossing his own self off a cliff. Hannibal, like all Will had ever needed, stands ready to provide. He takes Will, still crying out in garbled high-pitchedness, from the pebbly beach that had received them. The cliff still in sight, maybe two miles away, looming over the sea and watching them limp off into the underbrush and the woods beyond that.

            Will allows himself to be led; he doesn't know where they're going anyway. Where they should go. What they should do. Questions swim aimless in his head, little more than uncertain annoyances.

            The big things:

            His cheek burns.

            His shoulder throbs.

            He's pretty sure his head was bashed against a rock in the current. He was washed clean for a while, after he emerged from the ocean, but now everything is bleeding anew and he looks as if he has come straight from the birth canal: soaked red and nigh immobile.

            Hannibal leads him gently through thickened overgrowth, away from the salty scent of sea, the drum of the Atlantic. Deeper into the verdure, where sunlight barely reaches. Will stumbles, leans on Hannibal's proffered forearm. This must hurt him too. He doesn't say so – he looks straight ahead and Will looks straight at him. Blood from the cut on his forehead runs down into his left eye.

            How long do they tramp through the brush? Dawn has turned to day, evident by harsher sunlight near the green boughs overhead. Some reaches the basin and an aurous bubble heats where the two are joined: Hannibal's forearm, Will's bloody hand. Will feels like he's on his last leg, tries to tug on Hannibal to tell him. Then, suddenly, Hannibal stops and he ushers Will a few steps back, using his sturdy frame to push him into the bark of a tall sugar maple.

            Hannibal says, "Stay here, until I come back for you."

            Will doesn't understand much (the light the sounds the strange feeling of solid ground under his feet where once there was sea and air) but he understands that Hannibal means to leave him alone. He sags down against the tree, the sharp knots of wood jutting against his back. He makes an unintelligible cry, grabs at Hannibal's ragged grey sweater.

            "Stay, Will." Hannibal leaves.

            Will crumbles to the ground and his vision goes fuzzy. He tries not to mewl but he mewls anyway, raising his hands to where Hannibal had been only a second prior.

                             *                                          

A scent jolts Will awake. It descends on him almost all at once, though it has the sense of a slow-build about it. He's catapulted from unconsciousness into a world of pain and dimmed light, and that smell, that coppery odor, slightly familiar and yet not.

            He tugs against some pain at his cheek and receives a reprimand in response: "You must'nt jerk about, Will." Hannibal. Will knows before he even sees him. "Just relax, you're almost done."

            Will settles in the bed he's been deposited into while Hannibal stitches his sliced cheek. The pillows are feathered, he can tell by the give, and green wool blankets pool around Will's lap. He's stripped down to blue-plaid boxers. The bed smells slightly rank but it isn't the same scent that brought him out of the black. His green eyes move rigidly to the other side of the wood-paneled room and there is a man beneath a wall clock, hunched over in his own dark blood. He is heavyset and scruffy, white beard frizzed around a pink face. The blood dribbles from his temple where a black-and-white handled screwdriver is lodged into the soft flesh there. A dark yellow stain at the crotch of his khakis.

            Will's eyes move back to Hannibal.

            Hannibal finishes the stitches with blue thread; he snips it with a small pair of scissors. "I found him like that," Hannibal says. He looks at Will for a long moment, then his eyes crinkle at the corners, lips quirking mildly.

            Will smiles, and that hurts, then he laughs, and that burns like hell but he can't help it. He leans back on the wealth of pillows behind him and laughs boisterously. He thinks it's boisterous. Hannibal continues to watch him, quiet, observing. The sound of Will's laughter is a hollow huffing, like a collie who's owners have cut its vocal chords.

            When he simmers, holding a hand tenderly to the treated side of his face, he looks down at the shoulder that had been stabbed. It's threaded too, neat, like a gift. He can't see his cheek but he's sure Hannibal has done a similar job. He wants to ask if Hannibal is making Will into his own present. He wonders if Hannibal will unwrap him. He wonders if he will turn out ugly from scarring.

            "I might need some help sewing the entry wound," Hannibal says. He looks like he's wilting. The color is gone from his face, he's not sitting up straight on the stool that's been pulled over to the bedside. Will nods, almost eager. He reaches for the needle and thread, and tries to tell Hannibal thank you.

            All that comes out is more air and a strained sound beneath that.

            Will touches his throat lightly.

            Hannibal places his own hand over Will's, and smiles. It calms any panic that might have arisen. "You can't speak," Hannibal says, and it's half a question, half not.

            Will shakes his head.

            Hannibal nods as if he's fairly unsurprised as this. Will wishes he felt the same, though it only bothers him peripherally. He tries again, briefly, he tries to say, 'It's 11:13 AM, I'm somewhere in the woods with Hannibal, and my name is Will Graham.' It comes out as barely a racket.

            This seems to go unnoticed by Hannibal – he's taken off his sweater and his torso is a mess of yellow-green bruises and knicks from the rockface of the cliff. The bullet hole looks angry. Will stares at Hannibal like he's a wonder, like he's Superman. Hannibal hands him the supplies and a half-empty bottle of whiskey that had been sitting on the nightstand. Will douses the area with the brown liquid; Hannibal closes his eyes, and after a few long moments, he says, "I know your tone, Will. The way you speak. My inner thoughts, too, have changed, and they take on your intonations; that little drawl you acquire when you're embarrassed or confused. The sharp edge when you're feeling defensive. I can't hear you, but I can hear you."

            Will threads, nodding. He supposes that's all that presently matters.

            Hannibal says, "Yes, that is all that matters."