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it’s the cracks that let the light shine through

Walter goes back to school the same week she gets out of the hospital.

He - for all intents and purposes - adapts.

Kids are just so fuckin’ resilient, Molly thinks, on the fourth night she’s unable to cook dinner because the mere sight of a kitchen knife sends her into a watery panic. Luckily for her, the continually unravelling state of her mental health has been easy enough to hide.

It doesn’t hurt until she notices Walter watching her sadly. With that knot in his brow, the expression on his face reminds Molly all too much of his father.

Wally’s dad aside, her general taste in men could be improved.

She’s had relationships with a long line of questionable guys, all of whom still hang in her memory like a strand of flickering Christmas lights. Wally’s dad was the port in the storm - right up until their divorce, anyway. Reconciliation had been on the table up until the night he died.

That was where Will came in. Or, where he was supposed to come in. Because for every man she dated in her twenties that was addicted to coke or liked to steal from her purse, she’d never fucked a murderer.

Not until she met Will Graham.

Her friends had him figured out from the start. That’s the fucked up part, the piece inside of her chest that splinters and digs into her heart when she’s crumpled up against the back of her bedroom door at night. They warned her not to get involved.

“He’s not a stray dog, Molly,” her best friend said, the night Molly introduced her to Will.

Like she saw something Molly couldn’t. It was like she somehow knew.

Sighing, Molly folds another piece of laundry, and tucks it away into her dresser. When she can work up the nerve to return anyone's message, she’s going to admit that she should have listened. They were all right.

She fucked a cannibal, for gods sake. She married someone who not only murdered people, but consumed their flesh when they were done. Then somewhere, in-between the killing and eating and the gentle way he used to hold her hand, Will left her for somebody else.

Someone he had, for years, completely refused to talk about, other than hollowly promising that their relationship - in whatever capacity she chose to interpret it - was firmly in the past.

It always stuck with her, like a thorn in fat, through the entirety of their relationship.

Will lied through sins of omission. Worse yet, he would turn a blind eye to the way she used to study him in the dark of the night; those sad evenings that happened only a few times a year. Will spent those nights alone. He liked it that way. Molly remembers lingering in the hallway, watching as he sat in his armchair, drunk and maudlin as he stared deep into the spitting fire.

On the rare occasion a piece of mail stamped by the FBI would show up, Will would intercept it, leaving her to stand in the middle of their kitchen with a bundle of sales flyers and junk mail held in the crook of one arm. She refused to snoop, and instead chose to wait for Will to say something.

He never did. Instead, the mail simply continued to arrive on family holidays, and once on his birthday. She only ever caught small glimpses of the letters themselves, pre-opened envelopes crammed alongside FBI stationary. She never got to look for very long.

On the days Will did receive one of those mystery letters, she found him prickly, practically bug-eyed as he tried to act like himself.

All of these small moments, collected carefully over three years of knowing Will Graham, suddenly became so much clearer when she found out Hannibal the Cannibal had escaped.

Like a starving dog to a bone, she’d mused from her hospital bed, tipping her head back against the pillow, and away from Jack’s lingering gaze.

~

The dogs are unwilling to understand that Will is not coming home.

“Sit,” She commands, voice wavering in the way it only can when you’re on the knife edge of a mental breakdown.

On the kitchen floor in front of her, four of the nine dogs sit.

Winston remains on the other side of the kitchen, where he rests his face against the screen door, eyelashes flickering from side to side every time he tracks a new noise outside. In front of her, between the two dogs they only recently adopted, Buster does not sit, and instead bobs his head in the air, growling wolfishly for his food.

For such a tiny dog, it sure feels like a swift kick in the gut.

Molly sets their food bowls down on the ground as quickly as she can without spilling anything. She then closes the door to the back porch, effectively blocking Winston from waiting for Will’s return, and heads towards Walter’s bedroom.

“Hey, buddy,” She starts saying, sounding unsure of herself even as she knocks against the frame of his door. Walter looks up over the top edge of his laptop, and, for a moment, she sees only her little baby. “Do you think you could do me a favor, and take care of the dogs food from now on?”

There’s a weighted moment between them - one of those times where she’s almost sure Wally is much older than he lets on - before he nods.

“Yeah mom,” He promises, eyes reflecting the bright blue light of his laptop screen. “Of course.”

Molly forces her lips into a steady line, and then raises the corners of her mouth until it forms a shaky smile.

“Thanks,” She manages. She doesn’t ask what he’s doing online. “Dinner should be ready soon.”

With another nod, she leaves Wally to read the blog posts and articles she hasn’t yet worked up the nerve to look at, and heads back in the general direction of the kitchen.

Their belongings are half packed all over the house. They were going to run away. They were going to leave Will behind in the dust, and look into protective custody. She was going to bow out, and protect her child from the serial killer who wanted them dead only because they were marked with Will’s last name.

But now, Francis Dolarhyde is dead. Her case is closed. The FBI has assured her of that. They won’t tell her how Dolarhyde died, but she saw it written all over Jack Crawford’s face the day he came to visit her at the hospital.

Hell, she’d barely had time to recover from the news of Hannibal Lecter’s escape before Jack was telling her Will disappeared into the darkness with him.

It’s been weeks and the FBI is still attempting to placate her. They say that there is no immediate threat, but they still call the landline once a week, hoping she’ll be able to provide more information.

She’s even been assigned a caseworker. They address her as “Mrs. Graham.”

Molly has since stopped picking up their calls.

The dogs are eating silently by the time she returns to the kitchen. Sighing into her hands, Molly rubs at the sockets of her eyes with her knuckles until she comes away with stars in her vision.

If Hannibal Lecter wanted her dead, she would be dead. That is, ultimately, why there is no point in leaving this house anymore.

In fact, she realized a long time ago that the only thing still keeping her alive... is Will.

Molly doesn’t know whether to love him or hate him for that.

~

Wally sleeps over at a friend’s house that Friday night, which is when two things happen.

First: Patricia, her best friend from college, comes over to help pack up Will’s lingering belongings.

And, second: she and Patricia consume so much alcohol that all of a sudden Google seems like a good idea.

“I mean, I need to know if this new guy is attractive,” Patricia is cackling. She falls into a chair that is already covered with Will’s flannel shirts. “This is really important to me, Mol. This new bitch!”

Molly, despite the decidedly seasick feeling that wells in her stomach, tries to seem unphased.

She’s the cool girl, after all, and the butt of the joke when it came to discussing relationships with her friends. They say she’s good at breakups, unlike the girls who resort to eating ice cream and listening to sad songs. So far, Molly has only fallen apart in the privacy of her own bedroom.

The one she used to share with her newest ex-husband, who has since run away with his ex-psychiatrist.

Ex-something, she hears Will say, and it’s hard not to jump when it sounds like he’s standing right behind her. Molly swallows tight against the way she hears Will’s voice pressed close to her ear, sardonic and flat.

She tries not to turn her head towards the phantom sound.

“Oh my god,” Patricia laughs, with her iPhone in one hand and their shared bottle of Jim Beam held by its neck in the other. “I will never get over this.”

Patricia holds her phone out, screen facing Molly, but she’s laughing so hard Molly can’t focus on its contents. The screen just sways back and forth, a bright cool blue blur in front of Molly’s sad face.

“Let me see,” Molly frowns, taking the phone out of Patricia’s hand.

The article is old - published before she ever even met Will - but she still feels her stomach bottom out when she first sees his face. In Patricia’s search for Hannibal Lecter, she has inadvertently turned up an old article from the trash site Will used to complain about at length.

Tattle Crime.

Now Molly sees why Will was never partial to this woman’s writing.

“It’s just a tabloid,” She manages, unable to read even the blurb of text accompanying the paparazzi style photo of Will exiting Quantico a thousand years ago.

It’s a kneejerk reaction, mostly: whatever happened before they met is not for her to know.

Patricia scoffs, and takes the phone back, saying, “Yeah, for murderers.”

“Well, they do like to read about themselves,” Molly finds herself replying. She doesn’t really mean to say anything at all, but then she remembers finding the psychiatry journals Will used to hide like pornography.

With a grunt, Molly runs her tape gun along the top flap of a box containing Will’s personal items.

There isn’t much here, really, just a couple of old fish lures, a porcelain dog figurine, and a framed painting of a boat on a lake.

She supposes that wherever he is now, he won’t be needing these sentimental things anymore.

“So this article says Lecter is super rich,” Patricia intones, no longer helping, just happy to swig bourbon and read aloud instead.

Molly frowns at that, and can’t help but look around the living room. She takes in her meager surroundings. She always figured the outdoorsy thing was Will’s scene; you didn’t end up living on a massive slab of Wolf Trap farmland by accident.

But what if that was just one more thing she had been wrong about all these years?

She can’t help herself from drunkenly picturing Will. New Will, in his expensive clothes and Italian shoes with that fucking self satisfied smirk on his face.

Molly finds herself taping the next box closed with a certain heavy handed flourish. The tape rips away from the roll loudly, abrasively, making her feel that - for just one moment - the unhappy discourse in her head is just a bit quieter.

“Hey, are you okay?” Patricia asks, genuinely concerned as she accidentally drops her phone to the floor. When she leans forward to retrieve it, her eyes are trained on Molly. “You know I’m just joking, right?”

Molly, a little out of breath, drops the tape gun and reaches for the bottle of Jim Beam. Patricia hands it over without comment, her face perfectly expressionless.

“I’m fine,” She lies, rubbing the back of one hand over her sticky forehead. “I need you to help me find homes for some of the dogs.”

The bourbon goes down sharp as Patricia nods, frowning.

Molly feels the burn of the alcohol all the way down into her belly.

~

She stands at the top of her driveway two days later as a local dog rescue takes four of the dogs away, Winston and Buster included.

The FBI case worker she’s been assigned has left multiple voicemails for her, full of unwanted advice. They’ve recommended leaving Will’s things alone, “for now,” and to go about her daily schedule as best she can. She’s their bait. The meat in the fish hook that hangs over a precipice of regret.

Molly knows that, even if the FBI doesn’t realize it.

They think Will is going to come back for the dogs, mostly. Their voicemail is so detailed that she feels nauseous with all the things she ends up knowing without wanting to. Every piece of information doled out to her by the FBI is just another brushstroke painting a clearer picture of the relationship Will shares with Hannibal Lecter.

It becomes apparent from their carefully worded phrasing that Hannibal Lecter gives Will whatever he wants. They think it might extend to and include his dogs, regardless of how dangerous the actual event may be.

That doesn’t matter now. Molly stands outside long after the truck disappears into the horizon.

She hopes the dogs find new homes. She hopes they’re good homes, full of people and children who will love them. She hopes that if Will is watching her now, he realizes she no longer has what he wants.

~

Walter is at school the afternoon Molly decides to look at his laptop.

She doesn’t want to be one of those moms that doesn’t trust the things her son is doing online, but it’s not like she’s hunting for porn in his browser history. It just feels wrong to leave Wally in the abyss of knowing too much all by himself. He’s a curious kid; always has been.

Molly isn’t surprised that it takes her less than five minutes to find what she’s looking for.

The first link she sees is for an online crime library. With bright white text against a red and black background, it explicitly details Hannibal Lecter’s long and storied past with the FBI. There are crime scene photos, most of which Molly scrolls past quickly, and copies of leaked documents.

Will is mentioned in the reports Walter has found. In a summary written by the library’s webmaster, he is referred to as Hannibal’s “obsession” multiple times.

Molly feels her stomach flop over when she loads the next page and finds Hannibal Lecter staring back at her. It’s a passport scan, black and white. Il Mostro is written in dark hand lettered text beneath his smirking face.

She never thought about what it would feel like to see Hannibal Lecter’s face for the first time. To be fair, she also never thought it would happen at noon on a Tuesday, lurking through her son’s things.

But here she is, alone and sufficiently stunned to sickness.

There are a few more photos of Hannibal Lecter in the online gallery. The webmaster says that all of the pictures have come from an auction, scanned with thanks to an anonymous donor. After the passport photo comes an old ID badge, followed by a newspaper clipping from The Baltimore Sun’s society page, and finally, a professional looking portrait. Something you’d see on a business card or a bus stop.

Molly finds herself lingering on the newspaper clipping the longest.

The curve of her thumbnail splits away from itself as she works it between her front teeth, full of restless energy as she studies the photograph closely. She’ll never know the timeline for certain, but if she remembers right, this picture would have been taken around the same time Will was his patient.

This is the man that Will met for the very first time, what might as well be a thousand years ago. This is the man that changed the trajectory of Will’s live forever. The man who led everyone to believe he was fixing Will, despite ruining him in secret.

Hannibal Lecter, the man who waited behind plate glass like an artifact in a museum, for Will to return.

And Will did.

“Jesus fucking christ,” Molly sighs, rubbing one hand over her face roughly. She can’t look at his expensive plaid suit anymore. She clicks to the next page in Wally’s history instead.

And there’s Tattle Crime again, one of the first search results when you look for Will Graham.

With a frown, Molly clicks on the category labelled ‘Will Graham,’ and lets her gaze drift down over the screen as the corresponding results load.

Freddie Lounds smiles back at her. Will complained about her often, especially nearer the beginning of their relationship. Freddie used to have a habit of popping up at the most inopportune moments; the first time Molly met her, she thought she was just a crazy ex-girlfriend.

Admittedly, Will probably would have rather had Molly believe that than the full truth.

The first post in Will’s post category is titled Exclusive: Murder Husbands Finally Fall for Each Other. It has over three hundred comments.

Molly decides to scroll through the post contents first: four blocky paragraphs accompanied by a few grainy photos. The first picture is captioned Hannibal Lecter is rolled out of the BSHCI with Will Graham in tow. The next is a nightcrawler picture of two dead cops and a crashed squad car. The last is Jack Crawford, painted with blue and red police lights in the dead of the night.

She doesn’t know who Freddie’s sources are, but the article reads true. Three years of work by Will, faded to nothing by the second paragraph of Freddie’s post.

“Tattle Crime sources say that Dolarhyde was murdered by both Hannibal Lecter and Will,” Molly reads aloud, murmuring the words back to the screen. “With a bite taken from Dolarhyde’s throat, the evidence would suggest no one else.”

She almost gags at the thought.

Lecter and Graham’s bodies, Molly continues to read, rapt, were not. Although Jack Crawford’s team of FBI cronies searched the surrounding areas, they turned up empty handed. A forensics report obtained by Tattle Crime details a trail of blood spatter to the cliff’s edge, leading this reporter to believe that Lecter and Graham finally fell for one another. Stay tuned to Tattle Crime for exclusive pictures of the cliffside hideaway Hannibal the Cannibal shared with Will Graham.

Sure, the writing is a little sensationalist, but Molly believes this over the non-information the FBI is trying to pacify her with.

Molly finds herself scrolling down to the bottom of the page, past another photo of Will, to a bright red text box that says GOT A TIP? and includes an email address.

Without thinking, Molly copies the address, and opens up a new tab to log into her email account.

I am Molly Graham, she types into a new message, and I have some questions I hope you will answer.

~

Freddie Lounds is on her stoop the next afternoon.

“Thanks for coming,” Molly sighs, holding the door open as Freddie smiles tightly and takes a step inside. “I know Maine is a long way from Baltimore.”

Right away, it’s obvious Freddie is a journalist. Her gaze flickers over the entirety of the entry way, snap-click fast, from the floors to the ceilings, to the picture frames hung on the wall - empty, now.

Molly knows Freddie is looking for any trace of Will she can find.

“I appreciate you reaching out,” Freddie replies, her words carefully weighted. She rests one hand on the top flap of her purse, held tightly at her hip by the thin strap across her chest. “I can only imagine how hard the last few months have been.”

Confused, Molly frowns, and closes the door. She says, “It’s only been a month and a half.”

“I know,” Freddie replies.

They stand frozen for a moment, regarding one another carefully. Molly, warily.

“Let’s sit in the kitchen,” Molly finally offers, toeing Walter’s sneakers from their immediate path. She affixes a close mouthed smile on her face, and holds it in Freddie’s general direction until Freddie nods and takes a step forward.

Her head swivels back and forth as she walks down the dim hallway, taking in her surroundings.

Freddie has known Will for longer than Molly ever did. In some ways, Freddie knows him better.

Molly tries not to think about that right now.

“Will’s dogs are gone,” Freddie comments.

As they enter the kitchen, Molly points her towards the table and chairs.

She spent more time cleaning this morning. Packing Will’s remaining things, throwing away the last of their shared belongings that she couldn’t bare to look at anymore. All of the physical evidence that proves she ever knew Will at all now lives in the garage, packed carefully into eight moving boxes.

“Yeah,” Molly nods, reaching for the coffee pot. “I didn’t realize you knew Will so well.”

Freddie takes a seat at the kitchen table, and sets her purse aside. She opens the top flap and carefully removes a pen and a pad of paper.

“We were… well acquainted when he lived in Wolf Trap,” Freddie explains. What she doesn’t say is we were well acquainted before he ran away from his problems and met you. “His dogs were very good at ruining my exclusives.”

Ah. Molly huffs a snort of laughter as she spoons coffee grounds into the filter, and turns the machine on.

“The FBI thought he would come back for them,” Molly sighs, turning around to lean back against the counter’s edge with both hands. She studies Freddie, wondering how much she should say, but then finds the words fall out regardless. “He didn’t.”

Freddie purses her lips, and then replies, “No, he wouldn’t.”

“What makes you say that?” Molly asks curiously. From what she’s read on Tattle Crime so far, Freddie really does have the edge that few else do.

Molly tries not to think about why.

“Will Graham is complicated,” Freddie smiles, tilting her head back. Molly watches as she taps her pen against the edge of the notepad in a quick rhythm, and then her smile fades into a smirk as she adds, “He wouldn’t compromise Hannibal’s safety. Not yet. That being said, I hope they are closed adoptions.”

Frowning, Molly turns to retrieve two mugs from the cupboard. As she slides them from the cupboard she asks, “You think they’ll come back?”

“It isn’t likely they’ve left,” Freddie explains, eyes trailing over Molly’s hands as she sets the mugs down and pours their coffee. “Jack Crawford is looking for them in Florence. Hannibal’s ex-psychiatrist turned up a week ago missing a leg. You tell me what continent they’re on.”

The mug Molly is holding clatters against the counter top loudly, and coffee sloshes everywhere.

“Excuse me?” Molly finds herself laughing, sharp voiced and flabbergasted. She turns again, enough to see Freddie, smirking and staring back at her from the kitchen table.

It’s clear she’s deeply amused by Molly’s reaction.

“How much do you know, exactly?” Freddie asks, licking her bottom lip.

Stunned into a sudden silence, Molly fishmouths, and reaches for a dish towel.

“Not enough,” She finally replies, wiping down the counter one-handed. Her voice sounds as bitter as she suspects their coffee will taste. “Obviously not nearly enough.”

Looking thoughtful, Freddie waits until Molly sits down with their coffee mugs, and then says, “I can give you the crash course.”

~

Molly gets through two cups of coffee before she has to break out the bourbon.

“Hannibal’s instinct has always been to protect Will from other people,” Freddie explains. As she speaks, she tilts her head to the side incrementally, studying Molly as she pours herself another round. “I always found that strange. I guess once you get what you want, your first instinct is to keep it away from others.”

Grimacing, Molly swallows that first sweet mouthful of booze, and reaches to accept the photograph Freddie hands her.

These are similar to the ones she was looking at online yesterday. In fact, Molly thinks she might have seen a few of these already - Hannibal Lecter mid step, expensive jacket flapping behind him as he walks in stride with Will, strung out and sickly.

“Will had encephalitis,” Molly supplies, thumbing through the photos.

It’s one of the few pieces of information she was ever permitted to know, though she’s sure the only reason Will told her at all was because she’d asked about a particularly sweaty looking passport photo.

They ended up renewing their passports together a year later; in Will’s newest photo he looks healthy, happy, jaw covered in stubble. His eyes are bright and clear.

That was the man Molly thought she knew. Now his passport sits, unused, in a moving box.

“He was ill for a long time while under Hannibal’s watch,” Freddie supplements. As she accepts one set of pictures back from Molly, she tugs another free. “These photos were taken after Abigail Hobbs was institutionalized. I wanted to tell her story, but it goes without saying Will and Hannibal saw to it that it didn’t happen.”

Confused, Molly frowns, and then raises one eyebrow.

“Hannibal Lecter knew Abigail?” She asks, trying to piece the puzzle together.

Freddie hardly looks impressed at the memory. She replies, “When the Minnesota Shrike was caught, Hannibal became something of a father figure to her. He and Will were both… sympathetic to her situation.”

“I thought Abigail was Will’s ex-girlfriend,” Molly blurts, already reaching for another picture.

Sure enough, there it is in colored ink: a young girl, fresh faced and happy, flanked by Will on one side and Hannibal Lecter on the other. Will is grimacing, eyes hidden behind his glasses, and Hannibal Lecter is looking directly into the camera.

Molly swallows, hard.

“He never,” She tries to explain, bringing one hand up to her mouth. “Will never said.”

Freddie arranges her facial expression in a sympathetic manner. A delicate crease appears between her eyebrows as she reaches for her notepad.

“I’m sorry,” She sighs, shaking her head as she starts to write something down. “I’m sure an ex-girlfriend would have been easier to justify.”

Through her suddenly constricted throat, Molly casts her gaze down to the picture once more. She has to look at it again. There’s something about it.

“He never - he never said anything to me, never lied. I just thought,” Molly explains needlessly, looking at the firm expression on Hannibal Lecter’s face, the light sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of Abigail’s nose. “I found the photo and I just assumed that’s who she was.”

Freddie leans forward, over her notepad, and asks, “A photo of Will and Abigail together?”

“No. Just Abigail - I don’t know when it was taken,” Molly sighs, anticipating Freddie’s follow up question. She tugs another photo from the same series towards her. “It was in Will’s things when he decided to move down here from Wolf Trap. I - you know. I helped him move. It fell out of a shoebox. I wouldn’t have… I wasn’t looking for anything.”

The words I’m not like that echo between them.

“Of course you weren’t,” Freddie agrees, tone warming. “Why didn’t you ask who she was?”

Molly shakes her head and sighs. She closes her eyes, rests her chin in one hand.

“I knew his past wasn’t up for discussion,” She finally explains, keeping her eyes closed. “It took him a year to tell me who Jack was. He used to call all the time.”

Snorting, Freddie says, “That does sound like Jack.”

“I’m not stupid,” Molly intones, opening her eyes again. She looks at Freddie steadily. “If I had known any of this… I mean, I thought he was just a normal broken guy with daddy issues. I never could have assumed he’s a… a fucking… bisexual cannibal.”

With the words suddenly out of her mouth, Molly can’t help herself - she breaks down laughing hysterically. Freddie offers her a waning half smile, eyes lit up with entertainment, and watches as Molly throws her head back.

She cackles until she is crying with laughter.

“This is fucking ridiculous,” Molly finally manages to say, even as another crackle of laughter edges through her words. She wipes one eye. “Do you have any more pictures of Hannibal Lecter?”

With a nod, Freddie opens up another manilla folder, and lets its entire contents spill out across the kitchen table top. The same kitchen table Molly has served dinner on a hundred times in a hundred different ways. After their third date, Will hoisted her up against the edge and stood between her knees, kissing her slowly, warmly. Like a human would.

“These are the last photographs I have of the two of them together,” Freddie explains, interrupting Molly’s daydream. She separates two photos from the rest.

The first picture is Lecter in his shackles, being wheeled through an industrious looking chain link gate. He’s surrounded by a handful of security guards and men dressed from head to toe in white, but all Molly sees is Will.

Will, dressed in a tailored pair of jeans and a dark knit sweater, hair pushed back off of his forehead, head bowed as he follows behind.

She still doesn’t understand why Will was involved in the transfer at all, beyond convincing Lecter to take part in it. She doesn’t know how Jack could have been so stupid, to let the two of them abscond outside of bulletproof plexiglass with only human flesh to separate them.

The second picture is almost identical, taken just a few seconds later. The only difference is Will, looking back over his shoulder. One eyebrow is arched but his face is relaxed.

Molly sighs, and sets the photos back on the table. She reaches for her drink.

“They loved one another,” She says, before throwing back half the booze in one gulp.

Freddie stays quiet at first, simply watching with her head tipped to one side as Molly fights the burn of liquor in her throat.

“Deeply,” She eventually replies. “And more than the average person is capable of. They are a funhouse mirror reflection of one another; they find delight in the darkness.”

Unable to stomach the thought, Molly grimaces, “Good for them.”

“It’s kind of sweet,” Freddie says, before thinking better of it and biting her tongue at the sharp expression Molly turns on her in return. “I appreciate you talking with me.”

Weighing her response carefully, Molly nods and then replies, “Don’t mention it.”

“I’ll leave you with some names and phone numbers,” Freddie continues, already ripping a piece of paper off of her notepad to write on. “Should you ever want to learn more.”

Molly accepts the list Freddie hands her a few moments later - five or six names, all of them written in neat, blocky letters - and then slides it beneath her bottle of bourbon.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Molly answers honestly, “But I appreciate it anyways.”

With one last curious, upturned smile, Freddie packs her photographs up and starts towards the front door.

~

Molly tucks the list away in the top drawer of her dresser, which now sits half empty in Will’s absence.

With Wally at a friend’s house until after dinner, Molly finds herself polishing off the remainder of her bourbon as she searches for any trace of Abigail online. Freddie mentioned Abigail’s last name during their conversation, but Molly doesn’t remember it, so she searches for a combination of Will, Lecter, and Abigail’s names instead.

It’s mostly news stories that turn up, but she does eventually find Abigail’s full name - Abigail Hobbs, daughter of The Minnesota Shrike - and her obituary. It is… strange, to see pages and pages of her face, those big blue eyes that Molly first saw by accident.

Abigail looks young in these pictures. Knowing Abigail was a child makes it even worse.

“Jesus,” Molly sighs, clicking on an article from The Baltimore City Paper.

As her eyes coast over each paragraph, Molly can’t help her mind from wandering back to the first photo Freddie showed her of Will and Hannibal Lecter leaving Abigail’s hospital.

If her mental timeline is correct, they would have been newly acquainted with one another at the time. Will would have had no continuing involvement in Abigail’s case, not past the initial investigation. Lecter could have been her psychiatrist, Molly figures, but more than one article mentions a Dr. Bloom by name.

Molly can’t imagine Will having anything in common with Hannibal Lecter at this point in their relationship, but there was something about those photos - the way Hannibal Lecter walked so close.

That part of it sticks in Molly’s mind like a bramble in wool.

As she moves onto the next article, she tries to imagine Will and Hannibal Lecter with Abigail outside of the hospital. She quickly realizes her mind is unable to fill in the blanks.

Abigail’s obituary is short, vague, and very impersonal. The obituary makes it clear her parents both died before her, and that she had no other close family members at the time of her death. Her cause of death is not stated.

In fact, the cause of Abigail’s death is overwhelmingly unclear until Molly stumbles across a Baltimore Sun article that details the night Will was gutted. They even have transcripts of the calls made to 911.

It’s not - Will never spoke much about that night. He couldn’t hide the scar, the size and girth of it impossible to chalk up to a simple appendectomy, and it wasn’t very long before Molly got curious.

The first year, all she could get out of him was that it had been accidental. She assumed it was a fishing accident right up until the day the first letter from Hannibal Lecter arrived. It had been two weeks after their first wedding anniversary; almost like he knew, somehow.

Will drank for a week straight, and that was when Molly began to understand the significance of Hannibal Lecter’s looming presence in his life.

“He left me with a smile,” Will laughed, drunk and knocking into things. It was sad, at the time.

Now Molly doesn’t know what to think.

She remembers how protective he was over the scar, strange in his campaign to keep it for himself. When they were in bed together he would shy away from her touching it, which was difficult to keep from doing when his dick was in her mouth.

She caught him getting out of the shower once. It was late - he must have thought she was already asleep - because in between the stall door and the mirror over the sink, he stood silently, staring at his reflection. With one hand pressed low on his abdomen he stoked his thumb back and forth over the thickened scar tissue.

The motion stuck with her afterwards. It was something between self soothing and getting lost in a memory.

And that’s all she saw. After that she could only roll over and close her eyes, unable to watch the religion she saw dawning like a horizon in his eyes any longer.

~

The list sits, untouched in her top drawer, for almost two months.

Molly tries to go back to normal life as much as possible. There’s a group of three girls at Wally’s school who are teasing him about the news stories, so she goes to have a meeting with the principal. She and Patricia go out for pizza and drinks on a Friday, so she spends the following Saturday nursing a hangover, head tight with the sugary Long Island Iced Teas they were throwing back all evening.

Life goes on, despite what everyone has led her to believe. In a strange way, time passes in a similar way to how it did when Walter’s dad died.

Somehow this one comes with even more baggage than death itself, but she manages.

It’s possible to move on from the wreckage, even while it’s still on fire.

In fact, she almost forgets about the list altogether. Then she ends up with a voicemail from Jack Crawford.

“I should have called you sooner,” Jack tells her voicemail, sounding very much the opposite of apologetic. “I spent some time in Florence. I’m sure Freddie has already told you that. I’d like to speak with you, Molly. I want to know if there’s anything I missed.”

Molly doesn’t listen to the rest of the voicemail. She hangs up and leaves her phone by itself on the kitchen counter for the rest of the day.

It’s almost dark outside by the time she approaches her dresser like it’s a wild animal. She slides the top drawer open, removes the list, and sets it down on the smooth wooden surface on top. There. It isn’t scary at all.

There are a number of people she needs to talk to before she returns Jack’s call.

~

Molly’s doctor tells her she should see a psychiatrist, but she isn’t convinced so easily.

“I’ve had bad experiences with them,” She explains, purposely cagey, as the doctor checks the scar left on her shoulder. Bullet straight to the scapula.

Her doctor, a middle aged woman with a South African accent, smiles warmly, and takes a step back to peel off her gloves.

“Most people do,” The doctor says sympathetically. She tosses the gloves in the garbage, and reaches for Molly’s file. “But in this case, I really think the positive would outweigh the negative. You can’t hold this experience inside you forever.”

Part of Molly knows she’s right. But the other part doesn’t care. That part would prefer to retreat into the comfort of her own mind.

“I know that,” Molly sighs, tugging her shirt back into place. She pauses, considers the words she wants to say, and then lets them tumble out without further thought, “The man my ex-husband left me for ran away to Europe with his psychiatrist. My ex-husband recently ate her leg.”

The sudden expression on the doctor’s face makes Molly laugh.

~

Molly decides to call Bedelia one week after the doctor’s appointment.

Out of everyone, Bedelia is simultaneously the person she has the most - and the least - in common with. She can’t imagine what it was like to be on the other side of the veil with Hannibal Lecter. It’s hard enough thinking about what it was like to be on Will’s.

“I’m no longer accepting patients,” Bedelia tells her, with a calm, detached coolness. Molly thinks about the conversations she now knows Bedelia had with Will, and feels her resolve waver. She probably could go the rest of her life not knowing. “I can refer you to one of my colleagues.”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Molly bites out, “I’m Molly Graham. Will’s ex-wife.”

There’s a stilted, stumbling pause - the catch of Bedelia’s breath soft in her throat - before she manages to pull herself together and reply, “Well, I wasn’t expecting you to admit that.”

“You knew it was me?” Molly asks, sliding her palm up over her forehead and back over her hair.

Bedelia sighs, “You reaching out was inevitable. I simply thought it would take longer.”

“Freddie gave me your number,” Molly says apologetically. “I’d just like to talk. The FBI won’t tell me anything, and I know you… were close, with Hannibal Lecter.”

Amused, Bedelia replies, “So I’ve been told.”

Molly thinks about the letters Will used to receive in the mail, and wonders if Hannibal Lecter’s relationship with Bedelia was ever like that. If Lecter considered Bedelia a pet in the same way he always did Will.

~

She books a cheap flight online, and arrives at Bedelia’s apartment building by noon the next day.

Molly chooses not to mention Bedelia’s leg.

“Thanks for your time,” Molly says, filling the silence as she follows Bedelia down a long, narrow hallway that leads towards the living area.

Bedelia is in a wheelchair, though she seems to float across the floor more than roll over it. She’s dressed an expensive looking dress; it’s the color of wine, and drips with golden jewels.

Inside Bedelia’s apartment it is just as sparse as the hallway had been. There are yards and yards of clean beige carpet, a booze cabinet set up against the wall, and a sitting area strategically placed in the middle of the floor.

Molly pauses just inside the archway, letting her gaze trail from one side of the room to the other. She wonders if this is the last place Will and Hannibal Lecter were. If this is where they chose to mutilate Bedelia and eat her leg.

“Whisky?” Bedelia asks, from beside the booze cabinet. Without waiting for Molly’s answer, she opens the bottle and pours herself a finger in fine looking crystal.

With a nod, Molly takes an awkward seat on one of the emerald green couches, and tries not to feel too backwoods and ill-dressed among the beautiful things in Bedelia’s apartment. Her eye catches on an ivory handled knife set carefully on an end table.

“Thanks,” Molly whispers, accepting the drink.

Without meaning to, Molly sneaks a glance down at Bedelia’s leg.

It’s been amputated just below the knee. Even though Molly has already read the gossip online and heard it first hand from Freddie, the sight of Bedelia’s flesh, puckered and dry, makes her stomach flip and then bottom out.

Molly takes a long sip of booze, and tries to keep her eyes trained above Bedelia’s throat.

“It was a debt paid,” Bedelia says, cryptic. Her voice is that same detached, almost cruelly kind tone that it was on the phone.

Without meaning to, Molly grimaces and replies, “You’re handling things better than I am.”

“When you play with the devil, you will get burned,” Bedelia says evenly, before pausing to take a sip of her own drink. She swallows and adds, “I was marked years ago.”

Confused, Molly grips her drink a little tighter, and asks, “What does that mean?”

“Despite my best intentions, I have not yet found a way to turn back time,” Bedelia replies, tilting her head to the side. She studies Molly with calm eyes, detached. “I was unable to erase the fact that Will Graham found it important for Hannibal to take something from me the same way Hannibal took you from him.”

A shock of adrenaline floods through Molly’s system, but she steadies herself.

“Freddie told me Will saw you while he was here, helping Jack,” She manages to say.

Bedelia nods once, and then confirms, “He did.”

“What did you talk about?” Molly presses.

It is immediately clear that Bedelia does not volunteer information without being asked first.

“Under usual circumstances, our conversations would have been covered under the guise of a doctor patient relationship,” She says, before a pause, and then, “Though I hardly think that matters here.”

Molly knots her eyebrows and asks, “He was your patient?”

“No, not officially. Not on the record,” Bedelia clarifies. She takes another sip of her drink; she doesn’t cringe at the bite. “There was no payment for services rendered. We were simply having a conversation about shared interests.”

Hannibal Lecter, Molly supplies for them both.

“I didn’t know,” Is what she says out loud. “I talked to him every night, and I had no idea.”

Bedelia seems to be pleased at that. A small, unwavering smirk tugs the corner of her mouth up, and there’s a certain lightness in her eyes that Molly hasn’t seen before.

“No, you wouldn’t have,” She replies. “We talked about needed feelings. Manipulation. Degrees of disadvantage.”

Knowing that Bedelia is hanging the bait in front of her, Molly tries her best to sidestep and avoid it.

“You understand Will,” She says, decoding Bedelia’s veiled words. “And you saw Hannibal Lecter in a way that nobody else did.”

Bedelia is still for a moment, staring openly, with her glass held in one hand in front of her.

“I see Hannibal for what he is. He is cruel, intelligent, and in some ways, kind,” Bedelia replies carefully, clearly still deciding on what words to choose even as they slip from her mouth. “Will Graham understands who Hannibal is. They fulfill a deep need in one another to be understood. Your husband knew how this would end from the very moment he set foot in front of Jack.”

Without thinking, Molly corrects, “Ex-husband.”

“Ex-husband,” Bedelia repeats, amused. “You were marked from the moment Will declined to turn Jack away.”

Molly doesn’t realize how tightly she’s gripping her tumbler of whisky until she feels her wrist strain with the effort.

“You think Will did this on purpose?” She asks, disbelieving. Will was a lot of things, but Molly knows he never would have put her and Walter on the line.

He wasn’t that kind of man.

“Will Graham gave into something he was always meant to,” Bedelia replies cryptically, watching the way Molly loosens her grip and twists her wrist to relax it. “He is well aware that Hannibal prefers him alive. I’m sure at one time Hannibal wished to taste him, too, but I’m sure they have since found a non-intrusive way to do that.”

Molly grimaces at the implication. The last thing she wants to think about is Hannibal Lecter on his knees for Will.

“You don’t hate them, even after what they did to you,” She replies. It should be a question, but it sounds like a statement instead.

That seems just fine.

Bedelia manages a small, wry, smile. They are both painstakingly aware that she knows much more than she’s letting on.

“Extreme acts of cruelty require a high degree of empathy, Mrs. Graham,” Bedelia explains. Molly feels the name hit her in the face like a slap. “Will Graham chose to have a conversation with me because he was desperate to visit Hannibal again, in one form or another. Is that what you’re doing here now?”

The anger that floods through Molly’s body is instantaneous.

It’s such a righteous rush of adrenaline that all of a sudden she is shaking with it, as she launches forward in her chair, torso leaning over her knees as she grimaces at Bedelia’s cool face.

Molly suddenly knows what Hannibal Lecter saw in this woman.

“I have wanted nothing more than to eradicate Will’s presence from my life,” She replies, voice sharp, soft. Bedelia blinks back at her, mouth curved up into a delicate smile. “But I have people - official people from the FBI - asking me to leave my door unlocked, should he decide to come home on a whim. I have a son, who has to answer questions I can’t even wrap my head around because I can’t be there to protect him every moment of every day. I am fully aware that the only reason I’m alive is because Will wants it that way. Never, ever ask me if I am seeking Will out, because I am still living with him every single day. I can’t get away from him.”

Before the final word is even out of her mouth, Molly stands up, throws the last swallow of her drink back, and leaves.

~

Her hands are shaking all the way back to her car.

It takes her a minute to get the key in the door before she’s able to disengage the lock and open the door. She drops into the driver’s seat, trying to calm her breathing even while her fingers jump against the leather steering wheel.

For Bedelia to suggest - to even think - that Molly is somehow seeking Will out in this new world she has been forced to forge by herself, horrifies her.

It gives Molly more of an insight to Hannibal Lecter’s mindset than anything else has before.

She wonders if this is how Will is now - if this is how he always was while in Hannibal Lecter and Bedelia’s orbit. If he was a sharp tongued succubus who chased the shadows and looked for every crack he could slide into and pry apart.

Molly covers her face with her hands, and thinks about the meal the three of them must have shared. Plied with expensive alcohol, Hannibal Lecter at the head of the table and his two kittens beside him. A silver tray stacked high with fancy looking food and Bedelia’s spit roasted flesh.

It’s such a violent and disturbing image that Molly is all of a sudden sick with it.

She manages to get her rental door back open before she starts to throw up, the booze she threw back so readily making a sudden reappearance.

Hunched and hanging out her driver's side door, Molly gags on the booze and coffee she drank this morning, and then holds herself suspended, breathing heavily as she tries to catch her breath and calm her racing heart.

~

Molly can’t shake the dread that follows her around for days afterwards.

The expression on Bedelia’s face - so serene, so advantageously happy to see Molly squirm beneath the narrow light of her gaze - lingers in the back of Molly’s mind.

She thinks that Bedelia must have been the type of child to torture small animals. Ants, bees, birds. Perhaps that’s why she and Hannibal Lecter got along so well. Molly scribbles Bedelia’s name and phone number off of Freddie’s list so hard her pen rips clear through the paper, and marks the table top beneath it.

“Mom, are you alright?” Wally asks her, wandering through the kitchen with an opened can of soda and a granola bar in one hand.

Molly’s head jerks upright; a small, tight smile stretched across her mouth.

“I’m great,” She manages to reply. She didn’t tell Wally about the plane ticket she bought to visit Bedelia, or the one she’s thinking about booking next week. “Don’t eat that before dinner.”

Wally rolls his eyes, and tosses the granola bar for her to catch.

“One thing isn’t gonna ruin my appetite, mom.”

~

“Hi Molly, it’s Alana Bloom calling,” The voicemail says. “Freddie Lounds let me know you may be in touch soon. I wanted to let you know that you can call me whenever feels best for you. The number Freddie provided is my direct line. Bye for now.”

~

Over the course of two days, Molly listens to the message three times.

If Bedelia was a deep freeze of the Antarctic, Dr. Bloom sounds like a tropical destination resort.

Still, Molly can’t get the taste of the conversation she had with the former out of her mouth.

“Bad analogy,” She murmurs to herself, opening Wally’s laptop.

Google tells her that Alana Bloom is… mostly above board. She has some kind of connection to the Verger pig farms, which Molly has only ever heard bad things about from her extremely Liberal father. She scans for any mention of Hannibal Lecter, but comes up short.

Mostly Dr. Bloom just looks like a successful ex-professor. For now, Molly is going to assume that’s how she met Will, though a recent article places her as Chief Administrator of the BSHCI. Molly finds that strange, but not outside the realm of possibility.

Of course she doesn’t realize how connected Dr. Bloom is to Hannibal Lecter until she agrees to meet Alana at her office.

“My critics thought I’d get scared off the job,” Alana jokes, welcoming Molly into her office with a warmly extended hand. She winks and adds, “Little do they know, I like a little danger. How was your flight?”

Molly offers up a half smile, and follows Alana deeper into the cavernous office.

“Good,” She replies, nervous. “Quick.”

Alana offers a smile over her shoulder, just a flash of red lipstick and pale skin.

“I’m glad to hear that,” Alana says, taking a seat at her desk.

She motions to the two leather club chairs angled towards her desk, and waits for Molly to sit.

“Is that your son?” Molly asks, settling into the expensive leather upholstery.

With another smile, Alana replies, “He is. He just turned three! How old is yours?”

“Twelve. He’s almost a teenager,” Molly laughs softly, then, “Every time I look at him, I just see my baby.”

Alana’s eyes are the shape of half moons. She studies Molly’s face carefully, nothing but warmth in her expression, and replies, “I bet. I can’t imagine how fast they grow.”

“It goes by quick,” Molly agrees with a sigh. “Is your husband -- ”

“Wife,” Alana supplies, kindly.

“Sorry,” Molly shakes her head. She can’t help but feel embarrassed - she considered herself progressive in college, but here she is fifteen years later with her foot in her mouth - “Wife. Does she do what you do?”

Amused, Alana shakes her head and smiles.

“What, run an institution for the criminally insane?” She asks, chuckling. “No, not quite. Margot owns the Verger estate. Her father left it to our son. He’s the last remaining Verger heir.”

Molly can’t help but sound genuinely surprised as she replies, “Wow, congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Alana smiles with a slight nod. It’s pretty clear she’s leaving out whatever backstory comes alongside her son inheriting a multi-billion dollar empire, but Molly doesn’t really think it’s her place to ask for details. “So how have you been doing, Molly?”

Sighing, Molly takes a deep breath, holds onto the arms of the chair, and manages a smile.

“Me, I’m fine. I’m managing,” She says honestly, with a minute shrug of the shoulder. “Every day is easier. Sometimes I can’t remember what it felt like, at first, to find out about… all that. I’m not drinking as much. I mean, I still am, but not as much. I met with Bedelia Du Maurier a few weeks ago.”

“Oh?” Alana seems amused again. “And how did that go?”

With a laugh, Molly shakes her head and explains, “It didn’t. Our conversation barely reached the ten minute mark. It took me longer to find parking outside her apartment building.”

“Bedelia is a very… particular resource,” Alana allows, choosing the word carefully. She folds her hands over the surface of her desk, and catches Molly’s eye. “The relationships she shared with Hannibal and Will were equally outrageous, though in… different ways. She has the distinct ability to separate them and bring them together.”

Snorting, Molly says, “Good for her. I heard they ate her leg, but she didn’t seem very upset about that.”

“Like I said,” Alana smirks. “It’s a very complicated relationship.”

To Molly, a complicated relationship is ‘we broke up once but decided to give it another try.’ Nothing about the relationship Bedelia Du Maurier has with Hannibal Lecter is complicated. It’s just insane.

“I’m glad you’re holding up, though. And I’m sorry the FBI haven’t been more helpful,” Alana continues, leaning back in her chair. “The people who know Hannibal and Will are firmly aware that neither of them will be found anytime soon.”

With a sigh, Molly rests her chin against the knuckles on one hand, and replies, “That seems to be the consensus. Freddie Lounds thinks they’re still in the Baltimore area.”

“It’s very likely,” Alana nods. With a serene smile, she adds, “Unfortunately my hands are tied.”

Molly begins to get that very distinct feeling that she’s looking into a funhouse mirror again.

“You aren’t angry?” She asks, arching one eyebrow. She’s beginning to feel like a broken record, asking the same question to various people on repeat. She wonders when she’ll finally find a person that answers with a resounding YES. “I mean, they used you. They took advantage of you, and they ruined the lives of people you love.”

With a shrug and a frown, Alana simply says, “I can’t be. I can’t be angry.”

“You’re better at the zen thing than I am, then,” Molly grimaces, glancing around for a bottle of booze. At least at Bedelia’s she didn’t have to ask.

Alana laughs at that, and explains, “I can’t live my life in fear of something that may or may not happen. Hannibal made me a promise years ago, and that’s fine for Hannibal. I protect my son, and I live for my wife. That’s what I do. And I can’t do either of those things effectively when I’m looking over my shoulder at every snap of the branch. If Hannibal wants me, he’ll find me. Living in fear won’t change that.”

And god damnit if that doesn’t resonate with Molly. For a moment she’s afraid that she’s beginning to think like them.

“Do you mind if I ask what promise you made?” She asks, arching an eyebrow.

For some reason these gritty little details have begun to matter to her.

“I asked him to save Will’s life,” Alana says simply. She hardly sounds like she regrets it, even now, with Hannibal Lecter’s mark on her skin. “And he did. I think he would have done it regardless of whether I asked or not, but Hannibal would never admit to that. He also helped Margot and I conceive our son, but that’s a story for another day.”

Damn if Molly didn’t call some kind of complicated arrangement with the Verger son.

“The more I learn about Hannibal Lecter, the more surprised I am at how many people he’s managed to manipulate,” Molly says honestly. “Though I have to say, you don’t seem the type to make a deal with the devil.”

Shrugging, Alana says, “Sometimes when we’re backed into corners, we can only do what we believe is right at the time.”

“You asked Hannibal Lecter to save Will’s life,” Molly repeats, secretly wondering what that would have looked like. “You were close with Will? I read you met him through Quantico.”

Alana, thankfully, doesn’t pick apart her sentence. She doesn’t find it strange that Molly has resorted to researching their relationship after going three years knowing nothing about it.

“He was my colleague and my friend, and I cared for him very much,” Alana replies, softly. For the first time, Molly sees the beginning thread of the human connection that winds this entire mess together. “I wasn’t the one to introduce Will to Hannibal, but I did push for the evolution of their relationship.”

Now there’s a coded sentence. Molly lets it pass, just like Alana did to hers.

“It was important to me that Will had someone he could trust,” Alana continues, explaining. “He needed someone who would look out for him.”

Molly can’t help the flat tone in her voice when she says, “And Hannibal Lecter could do that.”

“Hannibal was a very good psychiatrist,” Alana says without hesitation. “He was my mentor, and, at the time, I thought he would be able to keep boundaries in place with Will where I knew I couldn’t. I wanted Hannibal to protect Will from Quantico and Jack.”

Frowning, Molly picks up on the tone of Alana’s voice, and guesses, “That worked out well, I’m sure.”

“At first,” Alana nods. “I didn’t realize I needed to protect Will from Hannibal until it was too late. Will and Hannibal found something in one another that nobody else was able to give or get from either of them.”

With a laugh, Molly replies, “Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“Sorry. I used to believe Hannibal manipulated Will into being this… this thing that you could only see in the dark of the night,” Alana continues, raising her eyebrows in a quick jerk. “I was very wrong. I listened to my heart, and I didn’t see Will for what he really was. Who he had been, all along. I’m still coming to terms with that. Seven members of my staff were killed when Hannibal escaped.”

That statistic hardly surprises Molly. From the photos she saw on Freddie Lounds’ website, she was honestly expecting a higher number of casualties.

“I’m sorry,” She says anyway.

Alana pulses a short, soft smile.

“So am I,” She says, gently. “And that’s what I live with, because it was my choice to let Hannibal go. The last time I saw Will, I chose to listen with my heart instead of my gut, because I thought he was different. But even with years and miles of distance between them, nothing changed. As soon as they were back in one another’s orbit, whoever was caught in the crossfire didn’t matter.”

Sighing deeply, Molly bows her head, and rubs both hands over her face roughly.

“All I can think about is how I exposed Walter to him, every day, for years,” She murmurs, words distorted as she speaks into her palms. “I put my kid under the same roof as a murderer, and I asked him to call it dad.”

With a sad, understanding smile, Alana nods.

“Hindsight is 20/20, and you did the best you could,” She says gently. “You wouldn’t have known. Will worked very hard to hide it from you. He worked hard to hide it from everyone.”

Molly drops her hands between her knees and chuckles, “Just hard enough, apparently.”

“I don’t think he realized what was happening until the cards were already in motion,” Alana theorizes, even though Molly knows she’s thinking with her heart instead of her head again. “He and Hannibal have always had a very… flirtatious relationship.”

Although it’s still a veiled reference, it’s the first time someone has broached the word.

Relationship.

“What do you mean?” Molly asks, curious.

She doesn’t want to know. But she needs to.

“I wasn’t going to show you this, but… maybe it would help,” Alana murmurs, before turning her computer monitor around, so Molly can see the flat screen.

With a few quick clicks of her mouse, Alana opens up a video file of security footage.

It’s black and white, grainy. The screen is a bit dark - old technology forced into the new century.

Molly finds herself looking to Alana for a cue on how she should react, but Alana simply tilts her head in a nod towards the screen.

Without thinking, Molly follows her gaze. It takes a moment, but then Will walks into the frame with a manilla folder held in one hand. A moment later, it cuts to a different angle. Hannibal Lecter is on the other side of the glass.

“No,” Molly blurts, physically reeling backwards. One hand comes up to cover her mouth.

Alana frowns at her, concerned, and asks, “Should I turn it off?”

Shaking her head again, Molly waves one hand no and leans forward, trying to get past the sudden lump in her stomach and concentrate on their conversation. Unfortunately the security footage doesn’t have subtitles, which makes it difficult to understand.

Hannibal Lecter has a heavy accent, which is something that - for whatever reason - Molly wasn’t expecting.

The idea of Will pressing his body close to a built European man does not compute.

She finds herself watching the tape in rapt silence anyway. It’s clearly not the first time Will has spoken to Hannibal Lecter since wandering back into his orbit. They’re talking about the Dragon, and, for the first part of the conversation, they both sound above board.

But it’s still strange to watch.

Despite the fact Will is clearly trying to prove to someone - himself, maybe, or whoever he knows is watching the tape - he’s here on business alone, every now and then the conversation edges toward intimate. It’s off handed. Molly almost can’t put her finger on it; one moment their conversation is about the file, and the next, Hannibal Lecter’s voice is low and warm as he gives Will his personal opinion.

“I like this dragon, Will. I don’t think he’s crazy at all,” On-screen Hannibal Lecter says. It makes the small hairs on the back of Molly’s neck stand up on end.

This doesn’t sound like the conversation between an incarcerated serial killer and the man he gutted and left for dead. It sounds like two people who clearly care for one another trying to navigate the newest plane of their relationship.

It’s stomach ache inducing.

“I want to see more,” Molly quickly decides, as their short conversation comes to a close and the video ends with fuzzy snow. “Will you show me everything?”

Alana nods, and clicks open a list of video files on the computer screen.

~

It chills Molly to the bone to hear Hannibal Lecter bring her up in conversation.

She’s never mentioned by name. She is always her or your wife.

When Hannibal Lecter says your wife, he makes it sound like the person in your life who isn’t me.

It makes Molly nauseous, to know she had been marked long before Hannibal Lecter finally chose to pull the trigger. She never realized Will got so close. She never realized they had a conversation that included her involvement in Will’s life.

Will almost seems relieved to be back in what must have been a familiar conversational volley with Hannibal Lecter. Their conversation is less about Will’s anger over her safety being compromised, and more about getting back into Hannibal’s brain.

A few tapes later, Molly feels sick when she hears Hannibal Lecter appraise, “What a cunning boy you are.”

“What the fuck,” She bumbles, voice breaking as she rubs at her face again, and looks over to Alana to see how she could possibly be reacting to this on-screen bullshit.

They’re flirting. They’re talking about a man committing suicide, and Hannibal Lecter is looking at Will as though he’s the man who hung the stars from the sky.

“What does that even mean?!” Molly continues, her voice coming out closer to desperate than she means for it to.

Alana stays quiet, and simply fixes her with a calm gaze. She looks sad for Molly. This is the equivalent of finding the credit card statement for a weekend getaway and a tank full of gas pumped in the wrong state.

The video file suddenly cuts to something Molly isn’t expecting to see, which is Alana and Hannibal Lecter talking about Will.

The sudden familiarity they all have with one another is staggering. It practically makes Molly’s head spin, to see how deep the layers and corresponding stitches go. On screen, Alana and Hannibal Lecter discuss the deal they made for Will’s life as though they’re two good friends recalling a fond memory.

And maybe they are.

Molly shifts slightly, just enough to look at Alana from the corner of her eye. Alana is concentrating on the screen, one manicured nail held against her bottom lip. As much as she says she’s not worried, it’s clear that she is.

Her eyes are haunted in a way Molly has never seen before.

“I knew it was a bad idea from the start,” Alana murmurs suddenly, eyes fixated on the screen. Suddenly her gaze flickers to meet Molly’s, and she adds, “Hannibal refused unless Will asked him ‘please.’”

With a grimace, Molly asks, “And did he?”

“He joked he would say ‘pretty please,’” Alana replies, with a humorless smile stretched tight across her mouth. After a blip in the radar that looks like a moment of indecision to Molly, she adds, “There’s one more video I want to show you. It’s the last footage of Hannibal and Will we have on record.”

The ‘on record’ distinction ricochets around Molly’s head loudly.

“Sure,” She manages, steeling herself. “What could possibly be worse?”

The answer, of course, is this.

It’s mostly Will asking Hannibal to agree to Jack’s half-baked plan. But there’s more to it than that.

From the first moment Molly lays eyes on Will, he’s different. She doesn’t know if he’s wearing an unfamiliar person suit, or if this is just the first time she’s seeing him without it. She can’t help herself from reeling in surprise.

“Bedelia later testified that her last meeting with Will happened shortly before this video was recorded,” Alana intones, leaning forward to raise the volume a bit. “We never found out what they talked about. It wasn’t on record. Suffice to say, Will found it inspiring.”

Molly nods, and then holds on up to the moment Will says, “I need you, Hannibal.”

That’s when the tears spring to her eyes.

It’s almost a physical reaction, the way she feels this in her gut. It’s like walking face first into a concrete wall. Her chest goes hot, flushed with fear. This isn’t Will.

This isn’t the man she knew and used to love. This is… hedonism, in its purest form.

“Is this who Will really is?” Molly asks, faintly. She knows Alana won’t have an answer for her.

Not one that she would be ready to hear, anyway.

“He wasn’t always like this,” Alana murmurs, sounding sad. “But I think this is who he is now.”

With one hand pressed acrossed her mouth, Molly shakes her head and rubs her lips roughly.

“I thought Hannibal Lecter forced Will into this,” She says, voice cracking. “I didn’t… I didn’t think…”

Alana has that small, sad smile on her face again. Molly notices it immediately.

“Will is as good at manipulating people as Hannibal is,” Alana explains, gently. Quietly. The psychiatrist in her rearing its long removed head. “Maybe even more so. Will had Hannibal on the hook from the moment they met. I can’t give anyone else the same distinction.”

Frowning in confusion, Molly asks, “Will manipulated Hannibal Lecter into… breaking out of solitary confinement?”

“He manipulated Hannibal into ending up in solitary confinement, first,” Alana smirks, as her eyes slowly cast back to the tape. On it, Will is practically moony eyed, pupils blown, eyes shiny and big as he stares at Hannibal in a way Molly has never seen a human look at another before.

It’s a far cry from the man she laughed nervously for, when he couldn’t even meet her gaze during their wedding ceremony. She can hear him in her head perfectly, even still. The fragile, soft voice he used to use. She thought she finally got through, but she hadn’t.

I’m nervous, Molly.

Jerking a hand to her cheeks, she wipes the tears that are suddenly there away. Her hand is shaking.

“It sounds weak to you, even as you say it,” Hannibal Lecter says on-screen.

More flirting, though now even more obvious than their earlier meeting. They may as well be sending one another drinks from one end of the bar to the other, for how obvious they are. Molly has no idea how the attendants standing behind them have managed to keep straight faces.

She has no idea why Jack thought this was ever a good idea.

How could this have ever worked out in his favor?

Keeping Hannibal Lecter incarcerated wasn’t keeping the wolf away from the sheep. Not when Will was on the other side of the bars the whole time.

At one time, Molly convinced herself that Will was the sheep with wool pulled down over his eyes like everyone else. But after seeing the two of them like this - having multiple conversations at once - she realizes with a resounding thud that Hannibal was never the wolf.

Will was.

“How did Jack not realize,” Molly breathes, leaning forward, fingers steepled over her mouth.

Alana doesn’t have the answer to her question.

“You’re our best shot, Hannibal,” Will says, practically licking his lips, and then - “Please.”

“Turn it off,” Molly blurts suddenly, eyes pinching closed.

Alana stops the video quickly, and looks over at Molly with a cautious expression on her face.

A sick, clammy feeling. That’s what she said to Will the first time she saw him after the attack.

That moment does not in any way compare to what she feels now.

She wishes she never agreed to watch the tape. She wishes she hadn’t been so greedy for answers, and asked for more.

Knowing what she does now, Molly realizes she would have rather kept her last memories of Will those of the cabin, where she would make fun of the socks he wore around the house, and in the same breath snug up against the warmth of his back.

She would have rather remembered the home they shared, where he played with her son (this monster played with her son), and took care of their dogs.

But those memories are suddenly shattered and gone, just like the pieces of mirror that she knows Dolarhyde preferred to leave over his victim's eyes. Those memories have been replaced with fantasies - nightmares - that are full of Hannibal Lecter and Will, locked into one another's orbit.

She can only imagine how they must treat one another when they are alone.

“I’m not sure who else Freddie recommended you speak to,” Alana says, softly, breaking the silence as she reaches for a pen and sheet of paper. “But I want to give you Reba McClane’s contact information.”

Still bewildered from what she saw in the video, Molly accepts the note paper without thinking, but manages to ask, “Reba?”

“Francis Dolarhyde’s ex-girlfriend,” Alana explains gently. Carefully. “I think you may find it therapeutic to speak with someone who’s gone through a similar experience. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now.”

Laughing, Molly arches an eyebrow, but tucks the paper away with a shaky, “Sure.”

~

A day after Molly gets back from Baltimore, she gets a voicemail from the dog adoption agency.

Hello, Mrs. Graham, my name is Lindsey and I’m calling in regards to Winston and Buster. They were both adopted out over the weekend; their forever families were actually scheduled to pick them up today, but unfortunately one of our new overnight trainees left their cage doors unlocked.

If Molly wasn’t listening to the beginning of the message, that sure as fuck gets her attention.

We have already alerted Animal Control Services, but wanted to reach out to you, as well, as some newly adopted dogs will try and head home out of habit. We’d really appreciate it if you could keep an eye out for either of them on your property, and give us a call if they turn up. We’ll let you know if anything happens in the meantime. Thanks, Molly, and have a good week.

Beep.

Molly stands in her kitchen, alone, with a sinking feeling in her gut and a tingling sensation along the backs of her arms. She thinks back to her conversation, months ago now, with Freddie.

She can’t remember Freddie’s exact words, but they essentially translated to:

Whatever Will wants, Will gets.

How do you think Hannibal ended up at the BHSCI in the first place? Freddie mused.

Molly steels herself against the counter, and sends a wary glance over one shoulder, towards the back door. If the two of them were able to steal Will’s dogs back from the adoption agency, then they have nothing left to take from her. All of Will’s things are with the FBI now.

Knowing she no longer has any of Will’s possessions should relax her, but it doesn’t.

If he and Hannibal Lecter are putting the pieces of their life back together after laying low - invisible - for so long, it means they’re on the move again. Put back together and healed.

It essentially means that Will is no longer keeping Hannibal Lecter on a leash.

They’re cocky enough to take Will’s dogs out from under the noses of the adoption agency and the FBI.

Molly doesn’t know where it stops, after that.

~

Even with Alana’s recommendation, Molly isn’t planning on reaching out to Reba until she reads her story online.

There is an immediate, deep connection that Molly feels, even though they’ve never met face to face. Molly think there’s a slim to none chance of ever meeting someone she can relate to as much as she thinks she can Reba.

After a few emails sent back and forth, they set up a phone date four months to the day that Jack Crawford came to collect Will.

“I’m still in the same apartment I was before,” Reba says softly, her voice demure and very kind. “They told me that with Francis dead, there was no threat to my safety. I think I might move anyway.”

Molly agrees softly, just a noise from the back of her throat, and sets her coffee mug back down against her kitchen table. The phone is a familiar weight against her cheek.

“I know what you mean. I still live in the same house, too,” She says. “It’s my home. Walter grew up here. He hasn’t had any nightmares. Why should I be run out of that?”

This time Reba agrees. She adds, “It’s hard to digest the information everyone throws at you. They all have an opinion on where you should go, who you should see. How you should feel. Most people my age are getting married and having children, not deciding whether or not they should go into witness protection.”

“Tell me about it,” Molly laughs, feeling for the first time since everything happened that she has someone who just gets it. “I declined the therapist the FBI tried to give me. I tried to choose my own, totally backfired. Seems like Hannibal Lecter was the last good psychiatrist around these parts.”

Reba chuckles at that, understanding the need for dark humor.

“It’s good to laugh again,” She sighs, and Molly hears her sip her own drink quietly.

Nodding to nobody in particular, Molly lets out a long breath, and leans back against the chair, until she can tip her chin towards the ceiling.

“I don’t feel like I’m recovering. I feel like I’m… still being shot at,” Molly admits, a pulse of a frown before she steadies her expression and closes her eyes. “And the moment it stops, I start over from the beginning. I’m getting my son out of bed with my hand on his mouth.”

Sighing, Reba murmurs, “I couldn’t be more sorry for what Francis did to you.”

“Oh, Reba, don’t,” Molly replies, her eyes popping back open. She hardly wants Reba to take responsibility for the fucked up shit Dolarhyde and Will did. This is on them. “Please don’t.”

Reba makes a soft sound of agreeance, and then asks, “Have you heard anything more about the investigation?”

“Not really,” Molly sighs, reaching for her coffee. “I found out Will’s dogs went missing from the adoption place. They called me, and said the dogs might make their way back home. They won’t. I know Will came for them.”

There’s a pause, like Reba isn’t sure what to say, before she replies, “Will was a good man.”

“Yeah, I thought so,” It’s easy to agree with that. And then, “But people change.”

She doesn’t mean to sound this sour, but it’s hard to keep the salt from spilling any longer.

“He came to visit me in the hospital. When I was in recovery,” Reba explains.

Yeah, Molly can picture that. She imagines Will’s eyebrows inching up, softening the lines on his forehead, eyes big and sorry and sad.

“He’s good at hospital visits,” Is what she manages to say out loud.

And god damn her, there’s an awkward silence, before Reba says, “I’m sorry. I, well. I didn’t mean it like that. I know how it feels. I don’t know why I’m saying the things to you I hate when people say to me.”

“No, fuck, I’m sorry,” Molly swears, frowning at herself. “I’m being an asshole. You were trying to tell me something. How was he, when you saw him?”

Part of her still wants to know the exact moment that it all fell apart.

“He was kind to me. I think he saw himself in me,” Reba says, her voice calm and thoughtful as she recalls the memory. “He said, ‘in the end he couldn’t kill you, and he couldn’t watch you die.’”

That pulls a soft snort from Molly’s nose. She intones, “How romantic.”

“It was a relief at the time - I believed him,” Reba laughs, now, knowing how ridiculous it sounds to say it out loud. “I know it’s hard to believe, but I could hear it in his voice. He meant what he was saying. Maybe he related to me, I’m not sure.”

With a sigh, Molly smiles a bit despite herself. Fucking Will and the nice things he used to say.

“Well, I’m glad you’re doing better,” Is what she tells Reba. “You seem great.”

Reba is great. She deserves so much more than a fuckhead who lights the room on fire and leaves her to discover what she thinks is his blown apart head.

Men are fucking idiots.

“I still have my moments, usually in the dead of the night,” Reba admits. She doesn’t seem to pick up on Molly’s train of thought. “I expect him to be there for some reason. I think I’m going to reach out and feel him again. Part of me wants to touch him, even though I know I shouldn’t.”

A soft, sad smile curves across Molly’s lips.

This is one thing she finds herself unable to relate to - even the thought of Will being within arm’s reach again makes her stomach hurt - but it’s reassuring, to know she isn’t the only one with complicated feelings.

“How are you so strong?” Molly asks, genuinely wondering. “You already seem so well adjusted. I’m good at pretending I’m okay, but I feel like I’m crumbling all the time. I swear, if I see Hannibal Lecter’s face pop up on my TV, I’m finally going to have a mental snap.”

A soft sigh, and then Reba’s reply, “If it happens, it happens. You can’t change the future. No use in obsessing over it.”

“That seems to be the general consensus,” Molly says, wry. “Did you know that there a lot of people in this world that feel the same way you do? Hannibal Lecter seems to inspire a certain brand of moral anarchy. How can you live like that? How could I live like that?”

Reba smiles, “You live or you die. It’s up to you to choose. I found that key around Francis’ neck, and I chose to live.”

“You’re fucking incredible,” Molly sighs, inspired. “I need my own key.”

With a soft laugh, Reba takes another sip of her drink, and then says, “When Will visited me, he said that I didn’t draw a freak, I drew a man with a freak on its back. It didn’t make sense to me then, but it does now.”

Listening intently, Molly twists her coffee mug against the tabletop, and watches the streaks of condensation it leaves behind.

For a gentle, quiet moment, she takes all of the nightmares away, and thinks of Will.

Just Will.

At his heart, a kind, well meaning man. A terrible sense of humor, with a penchant for snorting and a sharp little smile. Twisty, turny Will, who Molly could never pin down in the best of ways, someone she was always interested in talking to on the off-chance she’d be able to learn just a little bit more about him.

She thinks about Reba and her quiet strength. The kindness she has received from her, even through the short duration of their phone call. The relentless love and positivity she held close, even when there was physically no one left to do the same to.

Molly thinks about Reba and Will, the complicated pillars that chose to brace themselves between the men they loved and the world that couldn’t - wouldn’t - understand them.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” She murmurs, quietly, turning her mug from one side to the other.

Now, in this moment, Molly thinks that Reba has more in common with Will than they ever did with one another.

Reba is silent on the other end of the line, studying her in the same way she is studying Reba.

“You’ll get through this, I promise,” Reba finally tells her, with a smile in her voice. “If you’re not happy, then it’s not the end.”

~

The dogs don’t turn up. Molly knew they wouldn’t, anyways.

A week after it happens she finally tells the FBI. She leaves a message with her caseworker, explaining the dogs disappeared overnight, and that the adoption agency contacted her in lieu of their new owners.

Her FBI case manager is angry. They both know Molly waited too long.

Molly doesn’t know who she’s angrier at: the FBI, herself or Will, for putting her in this position in the first place.

There’s nothing left for the FBI to do about it, though. By now the security camera footage has long since been rewritten, and any evidence already destroyed in the otherwise day to day operations of the office and its volunteers.

She calls the adoption agency back and leaves a message for them, asking for her contact information to be removed. She provides them with the FBI case managers phone number, in case there is any further news on Winston or Buster.

When she hangs up the phone, she does so quietly. Calmly.

It’s only one thread out of a thousand cut, but it already feels a lot like letting go.

~

“No,” Molly says the next day, the moment she sees who is on the other side of the front door.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Jack lies from the stoop, pressing back against the wooden door with one leather gloved hand. “I wanted to ask if you’d like to talk.”

Shaking her head, Molly instantly replies, “Not with you. Not today. Not ever. Go away, Jack.”

“By the time we found out about the dogs, the lead was already cold,” Jack tells her, like that’s supposed to be a compelling reason for her to let him inside.

With a snort, Molly asks, “What would you have done if you knew? Asked me to keep my front door open, just in case Hannibal Lecter came back for their food bowls?”

“We don’t know if it was Hannibal who removed the dogs from the adoption agency,” Jack replies evenly.

She doesn’t even know how he manages to say this shit out loud, sometimes.

“You don’t know much of anything, do you?” She asks, still pressing from one side of the door as Jack does the same to the other. “It seems that being well informed would be too much to ask.”

Sighing, Jack eases up for a moment. Long enough to say, “Molly, I know you’re angry.”

“No, you don’t. You have no idea how I feel,” She snaps, wedging her boot against the bottom of the door. She watched the 1994 Oprah episode about home invasion. She knows how this works. “I have a few things going on inside right now, but I’ll tell you something - none of it is anger. Not that I’d expect you to understand.”

“I spent two months looking for them in Florence, only to discover they were in my backyard the entire time,” Jack huffs, edging towards out of breath from their ongoing struggle. “You don’t think I’d understand that?”

A jolt of wirey adrenaline floods through Molly’s body.

“You’re so fucking arrogant,” She snaps, letting go of the door. Jack almost falls through it, catching himself just in time for her to add, “I don’t think you’d understand it if Hannibal Lecter walked up these steps and hit you in the head with an axe.”

Jack adjusts his hat, and looks at her carefully. He’s visibly trying to stay calm.

“Molly,” He starts, but she cuts him off.

It’s easy to be mad. He is the physical embodiment of every shitty thing that’s happened to her since Will called to let her know they had a guest for dinner.

“What the fuck do you want from me, Jack?” She asks, holding her hands up. “You got my statement. You got Will. I don’t have anything left to give.”

For an instant, something flashes across Jack’s face. If Molly thought Jack was the type to experience human emotion, she’s almost sure it would be regret.

“I thought that Will would choose you,” He says carefully. He’s picking his words even as he speaks. “I didn’t realize Will had a smokescreen up until it was too late.”

“Neither did I, so I guess that is one thing we have in common,” Molly grumbles, crossing both arms over her chest.

Behind Jack, snow continues to fall serenely against her front yard.

“So we can agree on something,” Jack says, and the warmth in his tone betrays the frozen expression stretched across his face. He inches his eyebrows up, and adds, “Please, Molly. Twenty minutes. There are questions I can answer for you, too.”

Molly thinks about Freddie’s pictures, and Alana’s video footage.

She has no idea what Jack could tell her that she doesn’t regret knowing already.

“Fine,” She finds herself agreeing anyways. She is unable to stop poking at this particular bruise, it seems. “Twenty minutes.”

The last thing she needs to know is what happened before they went over the bluff.

~

She makes Jack a coffee out of habit, if nothing else.

“Will used to tell me you were persuasive,” Molly hedges, sliding one cup of coffee in Jack’s direction before she takes her own and settles in across from him. “I didn’t realize how right he was until today.”

Jack offers a quick, toothy smile.

“I’ll admit that Will knew me pretty well,” He replies, tugging the coffee closer by the mug’s handle. “He had a way of seeing people.”

Frowning, Molly asks, “Is that why he saw Hannibal Lecter?”

“That’s a question you’ve have to ask Will,” Jack answers easily, as though he’s had this conversation before. “I don’t think he’d give you a straight answer, though.”

It’s interesting, if not off-putting, to see this side of Will’s personality reflect in Jack. She can imagine them sitting in some stuffy FBI office, Jack talking to Will the same way he’s talking at her right now.

“Why do you say that?” She asks, curious.

She doesn’t mean it to come out sounding as snappy as it does.

“You’d be hearing Hannibal’s reply to the question though Will,” Jack shrugs, pausing to take a sip of his coffee. His eyebrows arch like he’s pleasantly surprised at the taste, and then he adds, “Hannibal Lecter has agency in the world, and it’s through Will.”

Molly frowns, and then shakes her head and replies, “You’re wrong.”

“I’ve known them independently, and I’ve known them together,” Jack tells her, leaving no room for an alternate view. “The Will Graham that went over that cliff was not the one I knew. He was Hannibal’s version of Frankenstein’s monster.”

It’s strange, to laugh and mean it. But she can’t help the noise that bubbles from her mouth.

Jack is so set on viewing Will as some kind of Saint, it’s kind of endearing.

“You don’t get it, do you?” She asks, mouth still half open in an entertained gape. “They did it right under your nose, Jack. I might not have a forensics degree, but at least I can tell when someone is lying. You practically laid down a path of rose petals for them. You fostered that… grand reunification yourself.”

With a flat frown, Jack replies, “I knew Will was circling the drain again. You have my word, Molly, I did not think he would take the bait.”

“Oh, well if you give me your word,” She snaps, and then, “What do you want from me, exactly?”

Sighing, Jack presses the coffee mug to the side, and then folds his hands together against the table.

“I need to take an official report on the dogs disappearing from the adoption agency,” He explains flatly, staring at her from one seat away. “Withholding information is an obstruction of justice, Molly.”

“Those are really big words, Jack,” She intones, reaching for his mug.

She hears the moment Jack really starts getting fed up with her. As she stands from the table to collect their empty coffee cups, he sighs, deep and rattling in his chest. He’s frustrated.

“If you hear anything, if you see anything, call me,” He tells her. She’d say he sounds like he means it, but this isn’t about her. This is about Jack getting what he wants. “Call my personal number if you need to.”

Rolling her eyes, Molly sets the mugs down in the sink, and then turns around to brace herself back against it, palms bent flat on the counter top.

“I’m safe, Jack. They don’t care about me,” She shrugs, letting her shoulders pop up to her ears before relaxing again. “But you don’t care about that, do you? You weren’t concerned for my safety when I didn’t tell you the dogs went missing. Your first priority would have been finding Hannibal Lecter, whether you were stepping over my dead body in the process or not.”

Jack frowns, and barely holds himself back from snapping, “I’m not interested in stepping over your dead body now or at any point in the future. We’re here to keep you and your son safe. That’s it.”

“Tell me what happened,” She says, raising her eyebrows.

To Jack’s credit, he barely fumbles before asking, “When?”

“Nobody’s explained what happened before they went over that cliff,” She shrugs again, and then pauses to lick her lips before she adds, “The only thing I know is they might be dead. They aren’t, obviously.”

There’s a long, tense moment where they stare at one another.

Molly can practically see the wheels turning in Jack’s head as he decides on what he’ll tell her.

“No, they aren’t,” He finally admits. There’s a hint of defeat in his voice, but not enough to give him away. “At first, we thought maybe. But there have been a handful of incidents over the last three months that confirms they are alive and well. Dolarhyde wanted to kill Hannibal. We knew that. It’s why Will suggested Hannibal as bait. It’s the only reason I agreed.”

Snorting, Molly narrows her eyes and says, “Dolarhyde was bait. You were bait.”

“Forensics says Dolarhyde attacked Hannibal first,” Jack continues, now with a monotone drawl that effectively steamrolls her comments. “They were at a property owned by Hannibal. We didn’t know about it, because there was never any official paperwork filed. Hannibal and Will were inside the house when Dolarhyde attacked.”

There’s that panicky feeling. Molly swallows tightly, and tries to hide her physical response from Jack at her own memory of Dolarhyde’s attack.

“Did he shoot them the same way he shot me?” She asks.

Her voice doesn’t even waver.

“Yes,” Jack replies, a quick nod. On some level, he must realize how hard this is for her. “He shot Hannibal first. We think he attacked Will next. Will had a gun, but he didn’t use it.”

With a snort, Molly interrupts, “He wouldn’t have. He was terrified of that thing.”

“The three of them fought. We found a knife and a hatchet at the scene, along with Dolarhyde’s camera equipment and gun,” Jack continues. He maintains eye contact with her, and speaks slowly, clearly. Almost serene. “Dolarhyde had multiple stab wounds. His throat was ripped out at the jugular. We think by Hannibal, but we have to have our lab match the bite before we’re sure.”

Swallowing, Molly thinks about that - really thinks about sinking her teeth into someone's flesh, deep enough to dig through vein and muscle and pull fat away from the bone.

“What about the jump?” She asks, nauseous at the resulting visual.

Jack shrugs, arching his eyebrows at her.

“They went over together,” He summarizes, like she should already know this. “There was no sign of a struggle. That’s what we know right now.”

By the time Jack finishes speaking, there another thick lump high in Molly’s throat.

Their coffee mugs sit upended in the sink, tap water dripping against the ceramic bottoms.

“Are you going to leave them alone now?” Molly asks, shakily.

The expression Jack turns on her is wide-eyed. Genuine surprise, as he is momentarily stunned into silence. She’s surprised he doesn’t yell.

“What?” He asks, in a way that implies I don’t think I heard that right.

But maybe Jack was right. Maybe Molly is angry.

After all of the days and weeks and months of this bullshit, of obsessing over the thought that she brought a criminal and a murderer into her home, something inside of Molly snaps like a fine wire.

All of the misplaced anger she has had simmering beneath the surface for months now, suddenly springs sharp to the surface. She is instantly rolling with anger, her fingers curled in against her palms as she grimaces at Jack from across the table.

“I said, are you going to leave them alone now?” She asks, and on the outside, she knows she is calm. Serene, even though her voice is shaking and she can feel the kick of adrenaline as it trembles through her hands. “What else could you possibly get from this? Do you really think they’ll let you win?”

Jack frowns, and then tries, “Molly…”

“Give it up, Jack,” She snorts, teary-eyed. “You’re on the wrong side of a losing battle.”

In one moment, Jack seems to make up his mind. He folds his arms over his chest, and assumes, “You’ve been talking to him.”

“No, I haven’t,” Molly laughs, shaking her head. “The last time I spoke to him I was in the hospital, and I knew, even then, I would never see him again. And I don’t need to see him now to know I should let sleeping dogs like. I suggest you take the same advice.”

Jack pauses, blinking at her, deciding what to say next.

“This isn’t over until they’re dead or in jail,” He promises, standing up from the table.

Shaking her head, Molly narrows her eyes at him, and replies, “You’re wrong. This was over the moment you decided to hand deliver Hannibal Lecter’s mail.”

~

Jack leaves soon after that.

When Molly is alone again, she sits at the kitchen table with her head braced in her hands and her eyes trained on the table top. There are still damp streaks from their coffee cups, stretching from one side of the wood grain to the other.

Her own refilled cup of coffee sits in the center of the table, stone cold.

As Walter returns home from school Molly jerks back to life. He kisses her on the curve of her cheek and grabs a snack from the fridge before disappearing up to his bedroom. To work on a school project or visit the less tasteful corners of the internet, Molly doesn’t know.

As the room begins to darken around her with twilight, Molly snaps back to reality.

She stands up, picks up her coffee mug, and sets it upside down beside Jack’s in the sink.

There are fresh groceries in the fridge, and she needs to make dinner for her son.

~

Seven days later after Jack’s impromptu visit, Molly is standing over the sink in a tank top and jeans, sweating at the edges of her hairline as she tries to scrub the rust ring out of the drain.

She should just buy a new sink. She could look up a DIY tutorial on YouTube and do it herself.

When she’s halfway through the third round of pouring heavy duty rust removal over the stain, there’s a sharp knock at the door.

Sighing, Molly snaps off both cleaning gloves, sets them against the edge of the sink, and starts towards the front door. She tucks a stray piece of hair behind one ear as she leans in to check the peephole.

It’s a delivery man. She opens the door.

“Molly Graham?” He asks, with a vase of flowers ready on one hip, and a digital signature pad in the opposite hand.

With a frown, Molly nods, and reaches to scribble her name across the digital line.

“Here you go,” The delivery man says, handing the vase over.

It’s very heavy. For some reason, Molly’s first thought is how easy it would be to knock someone out with this thing.

Confused by the gift - and honestly, mostly convinced they’re just a delayed sorry for the loss of your husband type bouquet - Molly says ‘thank you,’ and kicks the door shut with one heel.

Back in the kitchen, she sets the vase down on the counter, next to where she’s been working on the sink all morning, and tugs the little paper card out from where it’s been stuck along the flower’s bright blooms and fresh green stalks.

Dear Molly,

We appreciate your expert handling of Jack. I wish we could have been friends under a different set of circumstances.

-- H.L.

The blood in Molly’s hands run cold.

She feels the jolt. It ricochets all the way down to her feet.

Blinking once, twice, Molly presses her tongue between her lips, and closes the little note card.

She doesn’t read it again.

Instead, Molly rips the card up into pieces over the garbage, and then jams the flowers bud first into the garburator.