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What We Talk About When We Talk About Blood

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beep… beep… beep…

The sound calls Will back from somewhere dark and warm and he swims slowly up through the fog. Even before he’s quite remembered where he is, it feels familiar. This isn’t the first time he’s woken up in a hospital bed, taped and stitched, surrounded by whirring and beeping. It’s not even the second time. How many times does this have to happen before you accept that you are not making good life choices?

His head hurts. His everything hurts. He hears murmuring voices and footsteps but he takes his time opening his eyes. He doesn’t remember everything yet but he remembers that what he says and does next is going to be very important. There’s a lot riding on him. He tries to marshal his blurred recollections into some kind of order.

There was the fall and the sickening crunch of the landing. Lancing pain and blackness. Hands running over him quickly and un-gently, taking stock of his injuries. Hannibal’s voice: “I can’t take you with me. You won’t make it.” Their plan had come together hurriedly, he’d been semi-conscious and in horrendous pain, and he’s not at all sure he remembers how it goes. Or that following it would be a good idea if he did remember.

But he remembers the first step and that’s all he needs right now. If he can’t get the first step right, the rest of it doesn’t matter.

First, he has to convince Jack.

He blinks against the bright glare of the hospital light, and in a moment someone turns the light down. There are nurses, eventually a doctor, and they tell him things about his condition that he doesn’t fully process beyond the fact that it sounds like he’s probably going to live. He doesn’t miss that it’s “probably” and not “definitely”, although the words used to pretty it up are nicer.

Will’s more interested in the guard sitting by the door. He’s not a hospital security guard. FBI. There to protect him, or to protect other people from him? He’s not handcuffed to the hospital bed, so that’s a start. On the other hand he’s pretty sure that if he tried to get up right now he’d pass out before he made it four steps, so restraining him might be entirely beside the point. He hears the guard on the phone speaking low to someone - reporting in on him?

He decides that for now it’s enough to know that Freddie Lounds won’t be getting any pictures of him while he’s under armed guard. It’s a small silver lining.

He doesn’t really notice that things are going swimmy in front of his eyes in a way that they shouldn’t do, or that one of the beeps has turned high-pitched and insistent, until the door flies open, there are more people in the room, why are there so many people? It’s getting even darker and he tries to tell them that they don’t have to turn the lights down that much, but it’s too late, the bed is dissolving under him.

He lets go and dissolves back into darkness, wondering disjointedly if Abigail will be there to greet him.

When he surfaces again, Will’s mind is a little clearer and he’s either still alive, or the afterlife is a private hospital room with an armed guard. It’s a different room than before but he only knows that because the window is now on a different wall. Otherwise it’s still just Generic Hospital Room #7, monitors and beeping and tubes and a vague smell of disinfectant. It doesn’t surprise Will to note that his hospital room is not an overflowing bower of flowers, balloons, get-well cards, and teddy bears. Hell, it probably wouldn’t have been that even before he’d been involved in a prison break.

He tries to speak and only manages a croak. How long has it been since he used his voice? He wets his lips and tries again. “Hey. Can I have some water?”

His guard eyes him warily and doesn’t respond. Not a great sign. But he does open the door and speak to someone in the hallway, perhaps calling a nurse. Will gives up on making inroads with the guard and counts the ceiling tiles until the medical personnel arrive. It’s hard to focus. He loses count more than once.

He’s unhooked from one or two of the machines blinking and beeping at him, and allowed to sit up enough to try sipping at a little water. Everyone is professional and polite, and only someone as practiced at Will at avoiding eye contact would notice how well they are doing it to him. The redheaded nurse is focusing on his hairline and all her sentences are just a little too clipped. The blond nurse is intent on the screens at all times, and if he absolutely has to look at Will he looks at his hands. The doctor is brisk and efficient, she asks all the right questions, she explains that he’s been moved from the ICU now that he’s more stable, and she looks at him as glancingly as she can manage.

They blow off his questions about Molly and Walter, and about how long he’s been in the hospital, with vague and unhelpful answers. He suppresses a wild impulse to yell “BOO” and watch them jump.

They make sure he’s stable and then they get out of the room as if there’s a pack of dogs at their heels. They’re terrified of something. He wouldn’t want to place a bet on whether it’s him, or Jack Crawford’s instructions about how to interact with him.

It doesn’t take Jack long to show up; he must have had an order to be alerted the instant Will wakes up and stays awake. He looks tired and rumpled and furious. He stands outside the door for a moment conferring with the doctor before he comes in, relieves the guard, and drags his chair over to Will’s bedside. There’s just the one chair in the room. No one’s expecting Will Graham to have a bevy of visiting family and friends. He can't blame them.

"Molly?" His voice has returned but it's still hoarse.

"She's recuperating and she's safe. Walter too."

"Will you tell me where?"

"No, so don't ask and make me refuse. I did tell her we'd found you and you're stabilizing, and that we’ll let her know when you can have messages."

Will tries for a smile and winces as it pulls at whatever is happening in his mouth, a welter of stitches. "I bet she was thrilled to hear from you."

"Your wife has a mouth on her," Jack acknowledges. "And I'm apparently not her favorite person right now."

"I’m probably not, either. Give her my love, if she doesn't hang up on you first."

Silence settles in the room again and Will finally breaks it. "Hannibal?"

Jack's gaze is steady and hard to read. "Still missing. If it were anyone else we'd be saying presumed dead but you’ll understand that I have my doubts. Dolarhyde's dead. What can you tell me?"

So there it is. He can play fuzzy and it won't even be playing, he does have the distinct sensation that bits of his memory are scrambled. But he can't just have no memory and he can't have his real memories either. He wants to take a sip of water to play for time but Jack will see through that.

"It's still coming back together. Dolarhyde wrecked the transport. I think I hit my head. They took me with them but I was pretty out of it. Things turned ugly at the house."

"I would say so. The lab's going to be busy for days working up that scene."

Will closes his eyes. This is too intimate a memory to share with Jack looking at him, even the false version he’s about to tell. "There was a fight. Dolarhyde and Hannibal. Dolarhyde stabbed me. I think he was trying to rattle Hannibal. I had to fight back." He takes a long steadying breath. Blood in the moonlight. Blade through flesh easy as slicing through shadows. Copper and salt in his mouth. Hannibal’s eyes.

"Dolarhyde went down first and we kept fighting. Hannibal and I. I slipped at the edge. All that blood. Took him down with me. I blacked out when we hit that ledge and when I woke up your team was there."

"And you didn't see what happened to Hannibal."

"No. He might have kept falling into the water."

"Or he might have hit the ledge too and walked away. Left you for dead."

"Maybe. I'm sorry, Jack. That's all I've got right now. Ask me more in a couple of days, I'll try to remember."

Jack stands up briskly. He's got what he came for and he doesn’t seem particularly surprised at how useless it is. “We'll need a more formal statement later. Rest for now. You'll have an agent with you around the clock for protection."

"Whose protection?"

"Everyone's. It's an order, not a suggestion. Get some sleep. You look like hell."

Will nods and watches Jack go. A nurse comes back in to give him a tablet of something that almost immediately starts to soothe the throbbing in various parts of his body, and he closes his eyes again. That didn't go too badly.

Jack didn't believe a word of it but Will didn't really expect him to. Jack will be on incredibly thin ice after Hannibal's escape, Dolarhyde's extrajudicial killing, Will's near-death. His work, and the resources of the FBI for any personal vendettas he may wish to undertake, are all Jack has left now and he can’t lose them. He'll choose to accept the story Will gives him if Will can make it good enough to get them both out of hot water.

Jack will never trust Will again but that doesn't matter now. He'll probably keep looking for Hannibal for a little personal vengeance even if he eventually signs off on a "presumed dead" status. But that's a problem for the future.

Right now, Will needs sleep and time to heal, and he needs to not screw up, and he needs to walk the tightrope well enough to stay out of jail and out of the institution. And he needs to get his hands on a copy of Tattle Crime to see if Hannibal’s left him a message.

Everything else can wait.