The first thing that comes back to him in waking was scent. So many people, too many, tended to dismiss or ignore this ability their body could use toward survival. It was a shame really. There was a wealth of information in scent but then there were very few that had such a keen sense for the olfactory as him. Hannibal had noticed this sort of thing early on in life and used it to his fullest advantage, like now in determining where he was without letting anyone else in the room know that he was conscious.
The air was dry from industrial strength air conditioning units and sterile from the amount of disinfectant used on every surface, whether it be metal, plastic, or flesh. The cool arid quality of the air made Hannibal’s throat feel even dryer now that he could fully pay attention to his body’s complaints. As much as he wanted to react, Hannibal soothed nerves standing on end, all while breathing in just a bit deeper. He didn’t hear another living body in the room though but that meant nothing if someone was lying in wait for him. A touch paranoid perhaps, but one couldn’t be too careful.
A wealth of information in the form of odor was carried in on oxygen, Hannibal recognizing the bitterness of pain, the sourness of sorrow, and the few rare sweet notes of relief. It was all too familiar to him, Hannibal easily deducing that he was in a hospital but not as one of its caregivers or decision makers. The thrum of machinery, punctuated by a wealth of annoying beeps and blips let Hannibal know that he was on the other side of the diagnostic clipboard with an array of needles and tubes pressed into his body.
Having established his whereabouts, Hannibal’s attention turned inward to his current condition, evaluating the extent of his injuries. Though no other presence in the room was detected as of yet, Hannibal didn’t want to risk tipping off any nurse just happening to make their rounds while he was still waking, deciding on his next course of action. Subtle twitches that one could write off as dreaming informed Hannibal that all his fingers and toes were accounted for, all his limbs intact as well, though his left arm ached from what felt like blunt force impact. Nothing seemed to be restricted to the confines of a cast or taunt from stitching though so Hannibal put it on the back burner of his mind for now. Speaking of which….
Hannibal entered his memory palace, checking the most recent events catalogued there. Any interaction with Will were kept there, in its own special room, an open space filled with wild woods seeped in shadows, the forest made of bone. The trees here had branches made of antlers and their roots sharp teeth to better eat up the blood soaked ground. Will wandered freely here in this place, his potential not fully realized yet but still blossoming, the vision of his becoming made more perfect every day spent in Hannibal’s presence, looking at his art and understanding his design.
To his irritation, Hannibal found that pieces of his recollections were missing. For one used to a constant rich tapestry of memories, the holes in it now were jagged and jarring, starkly obvious against the rest of the background. In search of the missing pieces, Hannibal delved deeper into the woven events of night’s past.
It had been a good evening, one of advantage and subtle manipulation. Will had shown up at his house, sweating and confused, time slipping through his fingers and out of his mind’s grasp like sand from a shattered hourglass. The profiler was ripening from his fever at a rapid rate, making the man’s body ache, the pain of it sharpening his scent tangy and sweetly sour. Hannibal had soothed the ache that refused to leave Will’s head with a cool scented bath accompanied by rich food to fill his long neglected stomach, and wine dosed with little something extra to keep Will alive and lingering among the living. Once Will came into his own kingdom, Hannibal had every intention of treating him but until Will took up his bloody crown, the empath would only receive minimal aid toward that recovery.
After dinner, Will had insisted upon returning home, not knowing what condition he had left it in or if his dogs were safe. Hannibal had insisted upon driving him home, knowing that Will was not in any state to drive and he couldn’t have his experiment dying from something as simple as behind the wheel sleep deprivation.
They had taken Hannibal’s car, the good doctor having every intention of staying the night at Will’s house. There was so much more to do there once he put Will safely to bed. It also gave Hannibal a rare chance to observe the empath in his own environment and how he related to it. They had been traveling down the dark back roads of Wolf Trap, lonely with long shadows made from a too bright moon overhead and mist that moved strangely, like it was scared of being by itself.
And then there was nothing.
Blankness, a void in the rich fabric of his consciousness. It was irritating. Hannibal’s mental brow furrowing in exasperation at the gap in his head.
Shifting subtly in a bed that reeked of industrial strength bleach and pain that had seeped into the scratchy fibers, Hannibal noted that his head ached somewhere near his left temple. A lack of a bandage meant there was no laceration but from the feel of it, there was some swelling and bruising. A head injury would account for the loss in recent memory, Hannibal mused. Giving up any pretense of feigning sleep, Hannibal opened his sanguine eyes to regard the expected sight of a thankfully empty hospital room, stark white and gleaming with chrome and chirping machinery .
The doctor was still assessing himself and toying with the idea of alerting a nurse so he that could get some information about his situation when Will walked into the room, looking unharmed and remarkably awake, well even. Hannibal blinked in surprise, his only physical giveaway to this state of mild shock. Will’s healthy appearance made him wonder just how long he had been out.
The two men stared at each other for a moment, Hannibal’s finely tuned senses desperate to gain as much information as they could, seeking advantage even while he was injured and wearing a ridiculous gown, the color of which was a particular vile shade of pastel green. Hannibal hoped the suit he had been wearing had survived whatever had happened to him, that particular pattern of violet plaid a personnel favorite of his though he doubted it. As much as he would like to, Hannibal couldn’t fault the EMT’s for doing their jobs.
Lack of personal armor aside, Hannibal could appreciate Will’s own for once. Oddly enough, the empath was very well dressed and groomed, Will garbed in a tailored dark suit, all in shades of various black made of shiny satin, softer toned silk, matte wool, and polished leather. The attire and attention to appearance was something that one would wear either to a funeral or a party. Both options were unlikely for Will though. Social events weren’t really his thing, which was a shame now that he had seen Will in a proper suit. Hannibal was already starting to make plans of taking Will to the opera with him, kicking and screaming if need be, when it was Will that broke the held but not uncomfortable silence between them first.
“You could have told me.” Will said, the bombshell soft and fluttered as frayed velvet. Hannibal was pleased to note that Will looked composed, calm even, like he had simply mentioned something mundane as weather.
“You are taking this all rather well.” Hannibal picked his words carefully. He still had no idea how much time had passed, what events had occurred in his absence, or how much Will or the FBI knew. Someone could be listening in on their conversation right now, waiting for a reveal of some kind. Hannibal had no intention of making it that easy for the authorities if they had any suspicions about him. The lack of guards and handcuffs were evidence enough that they were not onto him. That or this conversation could be a ploy to admit guilt but Jack wasn’t patient enough for that sort of delicate power play.
“You never give anyone enough credit. Too used to seeing them as food I guess.” Will sighed, the corners of his lips turning up into a small smile as he shoved his hands into his slack’s pockets.
“Are you mad?” Hannibal inquired, truly curious about Will’s opinion on the matter. He didn’t appear to be so. If anything, Hannibal would have to say that Will looked disappointed.
“Mad? No, I pity you.” Will confirmed. Rage, searingly hot, and anger, bitterly cold, worked their way up and through Hannibal. He maintained a neutral facade effortlessly though, an old hand at control. Out of all the emotions he had expected from Will, pity had not been one of them.
“Why?” Hannibal managed, pleased to hear the word come out clean and precise, uncomplicated by any other emotion beyond indifference.
“Because my friend, you’ll always be alone now.” Will told him sadly as he sat down on the edge of the bed to perch there, sitting still for once. His skin was flushed with good health, losing its sallow tones. His blue eyes were clear and soft, uncomplicated by the perpetual bags that usually resided underneath them. Will was rested and well and lovely in his repose. Hannibal hated him for it, feeling unwashed, aching, and on edge.
“Not willing to forgive me, Will? For feeding you a few pigs?” Hannibal poked and prodded in an attempt to regain some ground in a game they were playing but never admit to doing so aloud.
The look that Will gave him in return was gut wrenching, the pain of it low and sharp though Hannibal gave no tell of experiencing the unpleasant twist of his innards. The purity of the empathy’s expression was one that Hannibal had never experienced before or had been so freely and utterly given to him by another. “Oh Hannibal, I could have loved you so completely, seen you in your entirety, appreciated the art you bring into this world by removing the filth from it.” Will said softly, the devotion and tender love on his face and in his words bare naked and open to the world, uncaring of its judgment.
“Gloating doesn’t suit you.” Hannibal countered, not knowing exactly what to do in this instance, immediately going on the defensive while he considered and recovered.
“I’m not gloating. I’m simply being honest. I’m telling you truths I was too scared to admit aloud and ones you probably don’t want to hear.” Will shook his head, making his soft chocolate curls shimmer and dance in the cold, unforgiving florescent lighting.
“I can’t love you.” Hannibal stated, indifference borne out of self protection made those few words come out far colder than they should. Others would have flinched from them but not his Will, his beautiful sweet William. Hannibal couldn’t help but feel pleased when Will simply smiled back at him in answer.
“Now who’s lying?” Will laughed, like they were merely sharing a joke between them. Perhaps they were. “In your own special way, just like how you treat the world or anything you consider truly beautiful or worthwhile within it, you can. Normal definitions have never really applied to you. Why start now?”
Will looked good like this, glowing with health and at ease with himself and even more so, Hannibal and all that he was. Hannibal couldn’t help but admire him, Will coming into his own, like some rare exotic flower that only bloomed for seconds once in a century. He couldn’t help wondering who had died to achieve this metamorphosis.
“But the opportunity is lost now because you have discovered the truth all on your own?” Hannibal sighed, wondering what he would need to do to get back into Will’s good graces. It would be worth the effort, now that they were on equal footing. If Will gave him a chance, Hannibal would explain to him why it all had been necessary. Will being who and what he was would understand in the end, even if Hannibal had to tie him down to do so.
“You need to see the one that is staring at you in the face.” Will whispered, looking sad again as he leaned in closer to Hannibal, almost touching.
Something was off, wrong even, about Will but Hannibal couldn’t put his finger on it, a notion of some sort being glimpsed on the edge of his perception. A flash of fur and dark feather seen through the shade of the trees in his mind.
Their timing as awful as ever, at least in Hannibal’s opinion, Alana and jack entered the room, their unwanted presence effectively ending a conversation not meant for other‘s ears. Hannibal would tell immediately that Alana had been crying, her eyes blood shot and puffy, her pale skin flushed, and her hands trembling as they pushed back usually coifed hair. Jack was just as upset though the emotion was worn very differently. Sorrow was Alana’s perfume, deep and rich with the salt of shed tears, hastily reapplied makeup, and moist material used to clean off sodden cheeks. Jack’s smell was rigid with anger, his version of mourning, acidic fury eating away his stomach lining, souring his breathe and the sweat that cooled on his skin.
They both recoiled upon realizing that Hannibal was awake, their abrupt reaction calling for Hannibal‘s full attention. Something was amiss, something that they were debating internally and silently with each other in a flurry of sharp looks and half whispered words whether or not to share with him, that much was apparent to Hannibal. Will remained unperturbed though, regarding their new company calmly but quietly from his spot on Hannibal’s bed.
“Good. You’re awake.” Jack spoke first, the large man dry swallowing hard enough for a sharp click of throat to be heard by all.
Apparently Alana knew where Jack was going with this because she felt the need to put herself physically between them, her back toward Will and Hannibal. “Damn it, Jack! It’s too soon!” she snapped, her lovely low voice strained and a raspy from whatever sadness that had scraped it raw.
“What is it? What has happened?” Hannibal asked, going bored with their theatrics. He allowed his tone of voice to sound as tired as he felt. As entertaining as it was to watch his puppets dance, Hannibal really didn’t have the patience for it at the moment. Will was giving nothing away either. The empath just kept smiling sadly over at him, like he knew the secret that could break the world open and he was keeping it close to his heart. It was starting to unnerve Hannibal.
“Jack, don’t!” Alana was threatening and begging all at once, the desperate edge to it making the hairs on the back of Hannibal’s neck stand on end. He was missing some factor in this equation, something vital, something important. Even worse, Will had tried to tell him as much before they had been interrupted and Hannibal had missed it completely. He stared at the empath for answer, maroon meeting azure solidly, sanguine getting nothing from those ocean depths.
“Tell me.” Hannibal demanded from anyone in the room willing to answer him though he kept his eyes trained on Will, who shut his own when Jack answered.
“Will’s dead.” Jack said. It was all Hannibal managed to hear before the world all around him delved into white noise for an intense moment of nonexistence.
“What?” Hannibal could hear himself say, because some part of him was always in control even in the most dire of times. He still didn’t know who he was asking the question of though. Will opened his eyes again, his face giving nothing away.
“You hit a deer. Will died instantly when the stag went through your windshield….” Was all Hannibal gathered and processed. He leaned in to Will, close but still not touching, breathing in. All that met his nose was too cool air, dry and stale from overuse.
“That’s not possible.” Hannibal disagreed. “No, that’s just stupid.”
And it was. Will couldn’t be dead, not from something so damn ordinary. That sort of thing happened to other people, other meat. Will stared back at him morosely, as if in silent apology.
It took a moment but Hannibal realized that Jack was still talking though Hannibal couldn’t recall what had been said at him, checking back in mid-sentence. “…….I have to ask. Did Will have any insight on the Chesapeake Ripper? Was he close? Did he say anything to you about it, anything at all?” Jack asked with his usual tact, desperation making him careless and rude. Hannibal stared numbly up at him, truly at a loss for words though the meaning of irony was bouncing around in his head. It didn’t help matters that Will was laughing silently beside him, smothering the sound of it into the back of his hand.
“Jack!” Alana shrieked, her hands curling into claws. Ever existent rationality told Hannibal it wouldn’t take much to make Alana attack the man standing in front of her.
“Damn it, I have to ask. People are dying.” Jack refusing to fall back but shame began to seep in around the edges.
“Folie à deux.” Will whispered to Hannibal, his ghost more alive than the man had ever been in life.
“Stop talking. Get out.” were words spoken softly but the weight of them carried, bringing Alana and Jack up short, the pair staring over at Hannibal with wide eyes and mouth held agape.
“But…” Jack started.
“H-Hannibal…” Alana stammered.
“Get out.” Hannibal said, not loud for that was not his way but cold, the kind that kills in short breaths. The monster that he was peeked out enough to scare off his visitors. The glimpse of it would be explained away later on by grief and other trite explanations. Hannibal couldn’t have cared less at the moment, watching Will as Alana and Jack left him.
Unable and unwilling to keep looking, Hannibal closed his eyes with a soft sigh as lips he has no memory of, their actual feel and texture, pressed up against his cheek.
Hannibal opened his eyes, wanting to keep his company while wishing it gone at the same time. Will smiled sweet and poignant back at him, a permanent angel now to his devil though whether or not he was real or if he would stay was anyone‘s guess. In all honesty, Hannibal didn’t know which Hell he preferred or feared more- the one where Will stayed with him or the one where Will left forever.
“Are you going to abandon me, Will?” Hannibal asked despite himself, his growing fear getting the better of him, the emotion unfamiliar and oddly sharp. He thought he had left it all behind him with childhood, buried along with his sister.
“Abandonment requires expectations. What were yours?” Will’s touch was lingering pain, a scar that had never been made a wound, never had a chance to bleed out. So much had been skipped between them, the ending to this affair tumultuously abrupt and unfair.
“I made plans.” Hannibal admitted aloud and alone to room.
Will chuckled, the low sound light and charmed. “That’s how you make gods laugh.”
“You’re not real.” Hannibal told Will. If he was going to end this, it was going to be now and on his own terms. It would be less hindering this way. If this hallucination persisted, it could be problematic later on. Will would be gone as soon enough as it was, his presence most assuredly due to head trauma. Nothing more, nothing less.
As comforting as that thought was, it didn’t explain the sensation of lips being pressed up to his ear as he felt Will lean over his prone form. “What is real? Reality is perception and perception is a fluid concept. Your castles are built on sand. The tide is about to come in on you.” Will murmured. “This is what we have, Hannibal, will always have. Push and pull.”
The hospital room faded out of existence, leaving Hannibal standing in a dark wood filled with shy mists and creeping dark, both darting between shafts of stray moonlight. The silver light of an unseen moon caressed Will‘s features and suit as much as it blended him into the midnight foliage. His form seemed to shift and twist as he circled Hannibal, a pair of footsteps doubling at times, pale skin and dark curl mistaken for the shimmer of inky plumage and the sheen of fur. “Folie à deux.” was spoken into the dark, what had once been Hannibal’s mind palace, orderly and beautiful. Still lovely, Hannibal followed his friend into the dark and deep of it all, his guide the only company he would ever need.
Madness shared by two.