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I'll Build A Room For Two

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There’s blood on the walls.

It tells a story -- of a broken vein and a broken scream and a sharp, sharp knife. Each drop conceals a secret. Each splatter is a truth. And between the tessellations Will can see a pattern form.

The pendulum swings.

Once. Twice.

The room begins to sway, caught in a memory that’s not entirely its own.

A woman--corn-fed beauty, relentlessly Midwestern; hair stained a chlorine blonde; skin softly burned from the summer; swimmer, athlete, student; her sweatshirt, torn in the struggle, reveals a university logo--is attacked. Her assailant is hiding behind the door. He needed no key to creep inside. She always leaves the window open... because she is trusting, because she is young, because she finds her apartment stifling and wants a lake breeze.

She’s dead before she hits the floor. This is a mercy.

Her killer starts to cut.

The pendulum swings.

And the blood turns to shadows and the shadows start to dance.

Will stares.

He doesn’t dare blink.

There’s a message in the movement. He just has to find it.

The pendulum swings.

And his eyes are so heavy -- from the watching, from the waiting, from the haze of conversations in his peripheral. Awkward theories from detectives who don't deserve the name: they blur in the background, distracting and wrong, wrong, wrong. They’re all wrong. He’ll correct them later.

Colors crash inside his skull, violent reds and jealous golds drowning the gray matter. Persistent. Insistent. It’s-- Too much.

But if he can just peek past the flood--

He’ll see--

He’ll see--

The pendulum swings.

He knows.

And Will’s forts come tumbling down.

-----

It’s dark when he wakes.

The world has been reduced to a small room, silent and still. A staleness, coffin-thick, fills the air.

A space for guests she never had, his mind supplies. Our girl was lonely.

The thought is shoved into a spare crevice in his mind. He'll examine it later.

Because now--

Now he’s confused and a little frightened.

Until--

“It seems you’ve returned to the land of the living.” Dr. Lecter’s voice ribbons out, precise vowels and an accent embraced (no acclimation into American shorthand. It was instead defied). “Or perhaps,” he muses, “this is the land of the dying. You are more comfortable there, I think.”

“I’m not comfortable anywhere,” says Will, pushing himself up. Rush of vertigo. Unsteady pressure. He’s too tired and too angry and--

A hand suddenly reaches out, coils against his shoulder. It eases him up, allows him to rest against the high-curve of a sofa. The angle is unfortunate. It brings him eye to eye, soul to soul, with Lecter. Will briefly allows the connection (be polite; be polite; that’s what mother said) before looking away. He finds a sun-faded stripe on the wall to focus on. It soothes him.

“What happened?” he finally asks. He already knows the answer.

“You fainted,” replies Lecter, honestly, simply. His face hovers in the corner of Will’s view. “Either from exhaustion or a desire to avoid Ms. Katz. Both reasons are acceptable.”

Except...

No.

Neither reason is acceptable. No reason could be.

It never was.

He fell often as a child, undone by the schoolyard scandals, by the stomp of saddle-shoes against the pavement, by the spill of candy bracelets and sticky giggles. It was all too much, the details bold, the sounds shrill. The days left him reeling.

And... they laughed, his never-friends and always-enemies. They laughed.

Now so will Katz and Zeller and Price.

And Lecter.

Lecter--

Lecter--

Is smiling.

It’s a baffling expression. It seems to border on the fond.

“You wear distress like others wear cheap clothing, Will. A poor fit and a poorer thing to see.”

“Don’t make fun of me.”

Please don’t make fun of me.

“My dear fellow,” murmurs Lecter, “I imagine you have vast experience with people mocking you.” A pause. A grin. “Vast enough to know when someone’s not.”

Will startles.

What?

He risks a glance to Lecter’s face. The sight that greets him is... unexpected. It’s an even mouth, a relaxed jaw, the steady rise of a brow. The variables are almost pleasant. The doctor isn’t lying.

What?

Lecter stands then and touches his tie. It’s a gesture he’s kind enough to let Will see, a safe quirk to be dissected later when the phantoms are too much to take. “Uncle Jack is waiting for us outside,” he says. “Probably pacing the floor like the lion he thinks himself to be. You should take a few moments for yourself. Your forts need rebuilding.”

He leans forward and brushes a hand across Will’s face, tucking back a wayward curl and ignoring the flinch. “I know you will lock the doors more tightly this time, but perhaps you will consider lending me a key. It’s best not to fight these monsters alone if you don’t have to. And you don't... have to.”

He turns then and leaves. He doesn’t look back.

And Will--

Will finally blinks.