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Out Of The Depths

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I have hills far steeper to climb, valleys much darker to pass through. And I have to get it all out of myself. Neither religion, morality, nor reason can help me at all.
-- Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

 

When he first wakes up, it’s not for long. It’s long enough to know he’s not really awake, to feel the drugs pinning him down in this blurry half-place. Long enough to feel the pain lurking in his body beneath them. Enough to realise he already knows just how shitty this is going to get, and to wish he didn’t.

-------------------

The second time, he has a few more minutes and he’s more aware. More aware of just how many tubes are in how many parts of his body (and some of those he’s a lot more aware of than others). Maybe he could move. Maybe he’ll choose not to – moving never leads to anything good when he wakes up like this.

There are people here. People who talk in medical jargon around him, and don’t talk to him. There’s someone beside him, and then there are more drugs and he can’t think any more.

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The third time, he’s actively seeking some clarity. ‘My name is Will Graham,’ he thinks. He doesn’t try to say it out loud. He doesn’t know when he last drank anything, but his throat is telling him it might have been weeks ago. ‘I don’t know when or where I am.’ After some further contemplation, ‘Every part of me that I think about hurts.’

He flexes a big toe to test that last thought. Okay, his toe doesn’t actively hurt, but the general increase in muscle tension sends pain knifing through his knee, and he huffs out all his air in a sudden loss of breath.

He can move and feel his leg, then, he concludes, as he sucks in replacement air. Until somebody tells him more medical details, he’s going to look at the positives and check that box as ‘good’ on the mental list he’s making.

Someone comes over to his bed again. They don’t make eye contact, except when they shine a light in his eyes and it makes him squint and then try to turn his head away, and he regrets that when the pain shrieks in his skull.

Will doesn’t try to talk to them, and they don’t talk to him, and while he’s not unhappy about the lack of conversation (he’s feeling the exact opposite of sociable right now), there’s something odd about it. Someone should be smiling at him, asking how he feels, telling him he’s going to be fine, and it’s good to see him awake. This person just wants to poke and investigate him, check on some of his tubes, entirely professional and entirely missing the personal.

It feels like Beverly scraping under his fingernails, while they watch the flakes of blood drop on to the sample tray.

He reaches out further, for more information (better too to ignore the person messing with his urinary catheter, always better to be somewhere else in his head while they do that). There’s medical equipment, drip lines and pumps and monitors, all standard, all modern units. There’s another set of footsteps nearby (in the room? Just outside the room? He’s not going to move his head again to check), and beyond that there’s… quiet.

There are windows, and there’s sunlight, and dust is dancing in the streaks of it above his head. It’s daylight, and a hospital should be full of endless, echoing noise, and it’s not.

The person by his bed has a needle now, and there are drugs again, and that’s as far as he gets.

-------------------

The fourth time… the fourth time, he’s a lot more alert than he’s been so far, though that’s a pathetically low bar to aim for, and Jack Crawford is sitting by his bed.

Jack’s head is dipped, hunched over the files in his lap, and from this angle his hair’s looking almost all grey now. Will can’t say he’s noticed that before.

“Jack?” It comes out whispered and cracked, not surprising Will and probably not Jack, since he’s here, waiting.

Jack lifts his head from the open file, gives Will a quick, assessing glance. “I’ll get you some water.”

Water comes from outside the room, it seems, and as Jack leaves, Will decides maybe it’s a good time to try that moving thing he’s been mostly avoiding. He braces hands and feet to push himself up the bed, and fuck, fuck, ow, that’s a serious reminder that he was stabbed in the shoulder.

The knee that bitched at him earlier isn’t entirely happy either, but that message is getting kind of swamped by the screaming from the nerves in the vicinity of his collarbone.

The pain ramps back down fairly quickly when he stops moving, so okay, he still has drugs on board, and they’re still working. He wriggles more to one side, so he can push mainly with his left hand, and by the time Jack comes back, he’s got himself half way sitting up against the pillows.

Jack gives him a contemplative look, but he doesn’t say anything, just offers him the glass, with a straw in it. Will takes it with his left hand.

The water is tepid, not cold, as he sips it. It slides over his tongue and down, without ice-teeth to bite at the healing ridge of tissue inside his cheek and the rawness in his throat.

“Thanks.” His voice sounds better this time, more Will and less an eighty-year-old smoker dying of emphysema. He takes a few more slow mouthfuls, rests the glass between his hands on the bed covers, and decides he might be able to manage an actual sentence.

“Where are we?” That part sounds almost normal, so he goes the rest of the way. “It looks like a hospital, but it’s not.” It doesn’t look too much like a hospital room, really, unless it’s a very expensive, private one, but Will doesn’t feel up to elaborating.

“No, it’s not. You’re at the Verger-Bloom estate.”

Will’s head starts to jerk up, stops short at the lance of pain, but he’s already looking Jack in the eye. “Alana?”

“Alana and her family aren’t here. I think you might remember why.” Jack’s tone is drier than Will’s throat. “I’m in contact with them, I have access to their property and their money for your care, but I don’t know where they are.”

Will lets his eyes drift closed again, the air leaving his lungs soft in a sigh. It’s good that they’re safe. It’s good that he doesn’t have to deal with Alana’s stares right now, as well as Jack’s.

“What day is it?”

“Friday. Four days since we found you.”

Five since the prison transport and the night at the cliff house. Fuck. He must have slept through an entire termite mound of activity.

And nobody’s handcuffed him to his bed yet. Will’s finding positives in all kinds of places today.

“Can you give me the medical rundown?” he asks. “The staff here aren’t chatty.”

“I assume you remember being stabbed?”

Hell, yes, he remembers being stabbed. He remembers every single time in shocking, techni-feely detail, all the way back to the first time when he was still a cop. He remembers Hannibal. “It’s hard to forget,” he says. “What else?”

“You have glass cuts and contusions just about everywhere. You bounced on your head at least twice.”

That all makes sense. “My knee?”

“It’s swollen, but you didn’t blow your ACL. There could be a partial tear - we’ll get it imaged if we need to, depending how it feels when you walk on it.”

It’s all… so much better than it could have been. Given he’s supposed to be dead.

Jack drags a hand across his face, over the top of his head. “You can’t imagine the last few days. I think I’ve had maybe one night of sleep over the five.”

“I might be willing to trade you,” Will offers.

Jack’s eyes on him are harsh. “I really don’t think you would.” He sighs, and slouches a little lower in his chair. “It’s chaos. So many meetings. FBI, the Marshals, the state police, everyone’s keen to pass the blame, and that’s when the official inquiry’s only barely gotten started. They’re all looking to me for explanations, and I don’t have a damn thing to give them. So why don’t you tell me, Will – what the hell happened out there?”

This has been inevitable since he woke up and laid eyes on Jack.

Will deliberately loosens his fingers around the glass as he lifts it, takes another slow drink before he starts to talk. He’s going to be talking for a while.

“Dolarhyde attacked the convoy in a cop car. He took out the police escort and set Hannibal loose. I hit my head when the van crashed. Hannibal grabbed my gun and took me with him. He thought he might need a hostage.” What he says has to be close to the truth – close enough to match everything the FBI will have found in the wreck of the house, and on top of the cliff. “Hannibal ran to a house he kept – he had clothes there, and cash. Dolarhyde must have followed us.”

Will waits for Jack to ask the obvious questions – how Dolarhyde knew about the transport, why he shot all the law enforcement but Will, why they didn’t notice a tail.

Jack doesn’t ask any of it. He just sits, watching Will.

Will takes another sip of his water in the silence. If Jack’s playing the let-them-talk game, he might as well get this over with. “Dolarhyde shot Hannibal through the window, before we even knew he was out there. Hannibal was down, he looked to be out of the fight, so Dolarhyde came after me. He stabbed me in the face and threw me out the window.” Close is going to work. The wine might be harder to explain, if Hannibal didn’t put such an emphasis on manners and playing the perfect host. The Italian police surmised he’d entertained more than one man at dinner who didn’t survive through to dessert. Will can make it hold.

“I stabbed Dolarhyde in the leg.” Will’s mouth twists up at the corner, and he feels the tug of stitches stiff and sharp along his cheek. “We stabbed each other back and forth, like whack-a-mole, only bloodier.” His shoulder is throbbing heat with every beat of his pulse as he tells it, even through the layers of drugs. “Hannibal jumped Dolarhyde from behind while he was still distracted with me; he got his hands on an axe from the wood pile.” Will can’t think about how Hannibal had looked then, moon-pale and bloody and vicious, how Hannibal had looked at Will, not while he’s talking to Jack. “We both attacked him then. I can’t say which one of us actually killed him. You’ll have to let the autopsy report do that.”

Jack sits up straighter again, as he finally interrupts. “You took out Dolarhyde, not Lecter?”

“He seemed like the priority at the time. I’m not ratcheting up the drama when I say he threw me out the window – he was strong.” Will looks down at the glass in his hand, swirling it to watch the water cling and drip down the sides. “You read his military background, saw what he left of the convoy. He would have killed me one on one, Jack. Hannibal was shot. He looked the better choice to be left alone with.”

“And once Dolarhyde was dead?”

Will lifts his head and stares Jack down, hard and cold and bitter with his words. “I pushed Hannibal over the cliff. He grabbed me and dragged me with him.”

Maybe Will’s used that tactic too often with Jack now – the more he needs to sell the lie, the more he uses eye contact to do it. Or maybe Jack’s just smart enough to know – he’s not Will, and he’s not Hannibal, but he’s not terrible when it comes to reading people. Either way, Jack’s not entirely buying what Will’s offering.

Will’s not going to change his story, especially not that last part. Having Jack add ‘suicidal’ to Will’s list of medical problems won’t do Will any favours, and he suspects he’s going to need all the favours he can get.

“You didn’t fall far. We found you on a ledge maybe twenty-five feet down, and the last bit was more a slide than a fall,” Jack says. He always has had bigger priorities than Will’s increasingly self-destructive choices, and for once it might actually benefit Will. Jack leans forward, elbows on the edge of the bed, and his hands are steepled tight. “What happened to Doctor Lecter?”

“I don’t know.” At least Will doesn’t have to lie for this part. “I don’t even remember landing.” He remembers falling, remembers the cold rush of wind roaring past his ears, with the ocean surf below.

“Did he still have a hold on you as you fell or did he let go?”

Falling, clinging, clutching ever tighter through the twists in his stomach as he waited for it to be over. No, there’d been no letting go, not from either of them.

This time he resists the urge to look Jack in the eye, just shakes his head once, a movement small enough not to hurt. “I don’t remember.”

Jack breathes out long, and sits back fully into his chair again. “Well, you’re alive, and we don’t have his body. I’m assuming he’s alive too, until we have real proof that he’s not.”

Will’s assuming the same. There’s no way one of them hit that ledge without the other. So what happened after that?

He doesn’t want to believe Hannibal saved himself and left Will there to die. He doesn’t want to believe Hannibal bled to death on the ledge before his body slid away into the sea.

He needs to ask, but Jack can’t make the connection.

“You haven’t found any sign of Hannibal?” he asks instead. “No blood anywhere else?”

“There was so much blood around, it was a nightmare to reconstruct – we had to wait for the lab testing to even be sure who bled where - but everything we have fits with what you said.”

“The car w- he stole was still at the house?” Careless. He needs to think it through more, but the drugs are like wool stuffed in his head.

If Jack noticed, he's not showing a reaction. “Under the carport, hidden from an aerial search.”

“Yeah, that’s where he left it.” That doesn’t mean anything. Hannibal probably took whatever Dolarhyde had been driving. “He must have owned that house for years, Jack. Long before he was arrested, just in case.”

“Seven years, at least. We found Miriam’s DNA there. And a fake passport with Abigail Hobbs’ photo on it.”

Abigail. Oh, shit, she still hurts.

“We didn’t find any IDs for Doctor Lecter,” Jack continues. “That’s another reason I’m going with ‘still alive’ as my main bet.”

That might be more promising. Maybe. “Unless he already picked it up, had it on him when he went over the cliff.” When Will pulled him off the cliff, when he tried to kill them both.

He’s… okay now, that he failed. ‘Happy’ isn’t something he feels capable of, but he doesn’t want to be dead, either.

“He might have,” Jack says. “It still leaves me needing a body before I’ll sleep through the night.”

Will can ask it now, what he needs to know. “How did you find me, Jack? How did you know where to look?”

“We finally got a signal from your phone at the house. Then we followed all the blood out to the cliff.”

His phone. He turned it off before he got in the police car. It was in his coat, hanging on a hook by Hannibal’s front door.

Hannibal’s alive. He’s alive, he made sure Will was found, and he got away.

Will thinks he’ll have to figure out how he feels about that at some point, but it won’t be now. The drugs are numbing everything, not just his body.

Maybe it’s the drugs. Or maybe it’s just him.

Numb to everything. It sounds almost good. Maybe he can figure out how to make it stick.

Jack bends down to scoop up the files from the carpet by his feet. “I’ve got to go, there’s another meeting – I can barely get away from the office this week.”

Will never would get the chance to look at those files. Even if Jack left the room again, he’s not up to crawling around on the floor and back into bed.

“Stay in bed,” Jack says. “I’ve told the staff not to bother you, so sit tight and let them do what they have to.” He walks away, crossing the room, towards the door.

Jack’s leaving, and Will hasn’t even asked. “How are Molly and Walter?”

Jack stops, turns back, and for the first time his face has softened, something close to sympathy in that look. “They’re safe. She’s healing. They’re doing about as well as you might think.”

Will can’t think of any way that normal people would deal with this. He’s been dealing with it for years, and he doesn’t ever do it well. “Can I talk to them? Can you arrange a phone call?”

Jack checks his watch. “I’ve really got to go. I’ll be back in a couple of days. We can talk more when you’ve had some more sleep.”

Will’s nowhere near drugged enough to miss that Jack didn’t answer the question.

-------------------

Will spends a lot more of the next couple of days awake.

He gets to know the routine. There are specific hours when he’s given painkillers and antibiotics; twice a day he gets thoroughly inspected head to toe, and food is reintroduced to his life. It’s a lot better than the food in any hospital he’s ever been forced to stay in. Even Hannibal might have said it was passable.

The painkillers mostly keep the headaches away, and the rest of his body bearable, if he’s careful what he does. The medical team remove about half of his tubes, and he manages to reach the bathroom by himself, over the bitter protests of his knee.

He spends so much more time awake, he’s starting to get suspicious about the first four days. Was he unconscious because of the head injury and the blood loss, or was he being kept deliberately sedated?

The nurses and doctors (he assumes they’re licensed, but he doesn’t ask) still don’t talk to him, beyond giving medical instructions. Jack said he’d told them not to hassle Will. That would be Will’s choice too, but it’s just as likely they’ve been told it’s a bad idea to get friendly with him.

He knows that downstairs there will be guards on the doors, with guns. What he doesn’t know is if those guards are all about protection, or if they’ve been told to make sure Will stays inside. He’s not going downstairs yet; he’s in pain getting as far as the bathroom, so the point is moot, but the question sits in his head.

He wonders if he’s getting paranoid. And then he laughs at himself hard, laughs until the pain is so bad he’s caught breathless between panting and sobbing, because possibly the most ridiculous thing about the past half decade of Will Graham’s life is that somewhere in the last eighteen months, he forgot to be paranoid.

He suspects his official status is currently a lot closer to ‘person of interest’ than innocent victim. Realistically, that’s the best outcome he can hope for.

It’s easier to think about that than about… anything outside these walls.

There’s going to be a lot more to think about. He just doesn’t want to do that yet.

Nobody else comes to see him, after Jack’s visit. That’s not surprising. Alana’s hiding with her family, likely on some private island somewhere, if she’s smart (and she is); Molly and Walter are… terrified, living under protection. There’s nobody else who might want to.

Except someone who wouldn’t get within a half mile of the doors to this house. And he’ll be smart about that too.

-------------------

Mid-morning of the third day, there’s a change to the routine. Breakfast, morning physical and dressing changes, first round of drugs, all the same. The eleven a.m. top up of opiates doesn’t happen.

It’s not forgotten. The blond male nurse (he never asks their names; maybe they wouldn’t tell him anyway) gives his IV antibiotic, works through the passive range of motion exercises on his knee, and updates his chart. Will’s still on his twelve hour schedule of non-steroidals. There’s just no morphine.

It’s a little past noon when Jack shows up in the doorway.

Jack’s first visit was timed for when Will was waking up, still part-drugged, conscious enough to hold a lucid conversation, but Jack was really wondering what Will might let slip if he got to him fast enough. Apparently Jack wants him entirely alert this second time around, and that’s… not necessarily boding well for where this chat will be going.

Will decides there’s no down side to getting his demands in first, and he starts before Jack even makes it to the chair. “I want to talk to Molly.”

Jack pulls up his seat, drops into it heavy and tired, but the look he sends Will’s way has no give in it. “You can’t.”

That’s… a lot more direct than he was expecting. “Why not?”

“Because officially, you’re not alive yet. I’d like you to think about keeping it that way for a while.”

It’s so ludicrous, Will takes a second to remember to breathe in again. Jack’s been involved in some convoluted, crazy plots (mostly Will’s plots, if he’s honest), but this is... “You didn’t tell anyone you found me?”

“No more than I had to. It seemed like the safest choice till we got some facts figured out.”

Well, that explains why he’s got this personal medical set-up in the Verger mansion, instead of a real hospital room. “Safer for me, or safer for you?”

“That’s one of the things I’m still figuring out. Maybe for both of us, in the short term at least.”

“So, I’m what right now? Missing?”

“Missing, and according to formal FBI statements, likely to be dead. As far as anyone knows, you fell from a cliff into the ocean.”

Missing. Shit, that’s... Dead would be one thing, dead would maybe even solve some problems in the end, but missing is too cruel; they don’t deserve that. “What about Molly and Walter? Leaving me ‘missing’ hardly seems fair on them, Jack.”

Jack leans forward from his chair, staring at Will hard, without a hint of sympathy. “Everything about this entire goddamn mess was unfair on them.”

“You coming to our door and dragging me back into everything I walked away from, that really was,” Will hits back.

It’s almost true, what he’s saying. He’d honestly thought he’d locked that version of himself away, sealed deep in the attic of his head, that his new life could be his future. The stupidity of that delusion is spectacular in hindsight – Hannibal would always have come for him, even if Will had slammed that door in Jack’s face.

Jack sits deep into the leather again, lets his breath out slow, and his voice is back to normal volume. “I don’t know exactly what happened last week, but I know none of it was the plan we talked about. I know Doctor Lecter’s on the loose again, and you don’t seem half so angry about that as I’m feeling.” His eyes fix on Will. “The only thing I can be absolutely certain of is that Hannibal Lecter’s not done with you. Do you want Molly and Walter to be there when he comes calling?”

No. Fuck, fuck, no. That can’t happen to them again; it should never have happened to them once. Flash of instant, familiar self-loathing, because Will did that to them.

It hurts, and he swats the anger away from himself, slamming it into the first part of Jack’s speech instead. “What exactly are you accusing me of, Jack?”

“Doctor Bedelia Du Maurier is no longer giving her scheduled lectures, but I imagine you wouldn’t know that since you’ve been asleep.” Jack’s tone has gone dry, dry like one of Hannibal’s Nantais folle blanche whites that he likes to serve with the shellfish. “Would you like to guess what I found, when I started poking through the details? I found that she was in touch with the storage company and putting her life in lockdown two days before news of Doctor Lecter’s escape ever went public. She was making her plans before I even filed the paperwork on the request for Hannibal’s transfer. Now she’s nowhere to be found. Again. And I have to ask myself, just how is it that that devious bitch could know how it was all going to go down long before I did?”

It’s hard to remember, looking at Jack now, that they used to look at one another as friends. They both know too much for that to ever come back.

Jack subsides into the chair again, and this time when he speaks, his words are almost soft. “This is the deal I’m offering, Will. As long as you’re officially missing, I don’t officially have to ask you any awkward questions about last week’s shit show. You get a place, nice and quiet, out of the way, just how you like it, and I’ll be waiting when Hannibal Lecter drops by to say hello.”

Will doesn’t have to give it even a moment’s thought. “Your plan has flaws, Jack. Hannibal’s not going to come looking if he thinks I’m dead in the Atlantic, and that’s what you’re letting everyone believe.”

“If Lecter’s alive, the way we’re both assuming he is, he knows the last place he saw you wasn’t in the ocean.”

That’s… undeniably true. Will offers up another truth in trade. “He didn’t come looking for me the last time he ran.”

“He didn’t have to,” Jack says, bluntly. “You went off chasing after him. He just left you the bodies, so you’d know where to look. This time you’ll be sitting tight, and he’ll come.”

Will’s paying a little more attention now – Jack seems to have put some real thought into this idea. “He won’t know where to find me, if you’re going to hide me away in some cabin in the woods.”

“He will, because you’re going to tell him.”

Will almost wants to laugh then, but he doesn’t because that would really fucking hurt, again, and baiting Jack’s not worth that much. “Whatever you think I might have done, Jack, I can promise you Hannibal didn’t stop to give me his forwarding address while he was escaping from a prison transport.”

“Wherever Hannibal Lecter’s gone, I don’t imagine he’s camping out in the kind of backwater that doesn’t have high speed internet,” Jack says, and Will doesn’t imagine he will be either. At first, maybe, because he’s injured, and he didn’t have time to plan ahead, but he’ll make more comfortable arrangements before long. “He’ll still be reading all about himself on Tattle Crime,” Jack continues. “He can’t resist it. I’m sure you can come up with a way to send him a message.”

It’s… almost starting to sound plausible, if still somewhat distant from the esteemed halls of ‘sensible’. Will looks at Jack now with genuine curiosity. “How do you plan to get Freddie on board with this?”

“You can promise her an exclusive,” Jack says. “’My fight to the death with not one, but two serial killers.’ It’s juicy enough that she’ll agree to hold off on publishing till you’re officially back in the world.”

Will’s face twists up tight, and there’s a flash of pain like his cheek is getting stabbed all over again. “You’re pimping me out to Freddie Lounds now? Just how many morals do you have left, Jack?”

“A lot less than I used to have,” Jack says, blandly matter-of-fact. “Maybe a few more than you, but I’m still figuring out that last part.”

It’s hard to be angry at that particular jab. Will’s still trying to work out for himself what moral lines he might have left, and he’s finding them uncomfortably sparse. “Well, I have to admire your confidence, Jack. You go to all this trouble to keep me your little secret, and now you think your best move is to tell a reporter.”

“Ms Lounds is alive because we both did the same for her once,” Jack says, and his assurance is total. “She’ll sit tight, if we ask her to.”

She actually might, if the pay-off looks to be big enough, but she’ll need to be convinced of some other factors too. “Even if I go for this deal, there’s no guarantee she will. The last time we played games with Freddie, the results were messy.” As much as he’s never liked Frederick Chilton, it’s vaguely disturbing to Will that he can say that and feel nothing. Or maybe it’s disturbing that it’s not disturbing. No regret, no pity. It’s all nothing.

Jack’s mouth twists down and his cheek twitches. Either he’s still a bit more human than Will’s feeling right now, or he’s just better conditioned in socially acceptable behaviour. “It was messy, but not for her, and Freddie deals in mess. She didn’t hold back on her coverage of what Dolarhyde did to Doctor Chilton.”

“Did she sneak into his hospital room to take photos?” Will can still feel something, apparently. He can still feel really bitter about that.

He’s just realising there’s at least one up side to being sequestered away in a billionaire’s mansion. He might have plenty of time to look for more.

“Oh, she tried, but he was still under armed guard. She got herself firmly escorted from the premises. I heard there were scuff marks on her shoes.” The humour’s all there in Jack’s voice now, the smile that rarely makes it onto his face, and for a second it’s almost like it was four years ago, before Will told Jack too many truths, and walked away.

Almost. But Will’s not that person any more, and Jack’s not forgotten that. “If all this works, Jack – if I cooperate, if Freddie cooperates, if Hannibal comes – what happens afterwards? Where does it leave me at the end of it all?”

Jack looks Will straight in the eye then, and he’s one hundred percent professional again. “You stay missing for as long as it takes to get Hannibal Lecter back in his cell, or better yet, dead. After that, it’s your choice – you can go back to being Will Graham, or you can become somebody else, get Freddie Lounds off your case forever.”

“Witness protection?” That seems unlikely, when Jack’s preferred option is that there’s nobody for him to be a witness against.

“Minus the protection. You get the identity; from there your life’s entirely your own.”

That sounds… almost pleasant. Not to be Will Graham any more – to be anybody, to be nobody. “What about Molly? Walter?”

Jack’s expression doesn’t shift. “If you take that part of the deal, it’s just for you.”

“You’d make me choose? I get my life or I get my family?” Will’s oozing bitterness again, and it may not be the best way to get anything he needs out of this, but he just can’t stop; every time they’re in the room, in his head, it’s there.

And for a second, so is that sympathy from Jack, the look Will saw when he asked to talk to them during Jack’s first visit. “You married a smart woman, Will. Maybe too kind for her own good, but she’s no kind of fool. The deal I’m offering you is that I stop asking questions. I’m not sure how you’d get that deal from Molly.”

Jack’s marriage was a good one, a long one. He knows a lot more than Will does about making relationships work, and Will knows enough to know he’s right. There aren’t any answers he can give Molly that would cover even half of what she’d need to know, and there’s nothing that will give her back the man she thought she was marrying. The man Will had wanted to believe she was marrying.

Molly’s far too intelligent and practical to read Tattle Crime, or any of the more litigation-baiting gossip tabloids. Anyone who read those might have gone on one date with Will Graham out of naked curiosity, but they’d never have shown up for a second.

Molly always knew there was a lot Will wouldn’t talk about from his old life as a profiler, but he let her think it was the normally disturbing details of a job that was all dead bodies and murderers. He told her Hannibal stabbed him – that kind of scar needs some explanation when the clothes come off – but he didn’t explain why, and it hadn’t seemed like there was a good point in their relationship to tell her, ‘By the way, that serial killing cannibal’s still completely obsessed with me, it’s highly unlikely to wear off, and oh yes, he’s the most deviously intelligent person I’ve ever met.’

He shouldn’t have married her. He should have told her, let her make her own choice. Should have let her make her choice for Walter, shit.

Telling her that much would at least have been fair, even if he couldn’t begin to tell her the rest of it. Will’s made a lot of terrible decisions over the last few years, but what he’s done to Molly might almost be the worst of them.

He loves her. He didn’t want to tell her; she made him happy, she made him laugh, and he hadn’t wanted her to go away.

Will’s pretty sure there isn’t an apology that will cover it.

’A life without regret would be no life at all.’ Hannibal’s words echoing back at him from the past. By Will’s current score, he must be the liveliest person on the planet.

Will looks down at his hands, at his fingers twisted together compulsively on top of the sheets of his fake hospital bed. “Do I get dogs at this secret hideaway of yours?”

Jack sighs. “You want dogs, you get dogs.”

Will drops his head back against the pillow, and closes his eyes; it’s too much even to look at the room right now. “I’ll take the deal.”

He’s still not sure what deal he’s really taking, but he wants out of this fucking mansion and into a world he can walk around in. The rest of it, he can figure out from there, but he needs to be able to breathe to do it.