I need a favor.
The first time he sees Will Graham, Will Graham doesn’t see him.
He’s on a gurney, eyes barely open, mask pressing against his face and fogging up once every few seconds when he manages a breath.
They’re infrequent, scarily so, and people are yelling, running through the corridor, pushing Matthew aside with panicked voices and shaky gestures.This happens often, he’s told, when the commotion is enough to drive the director from his office, finally open the door wide enough to let Matthew in, You’ll grow used to it after a while, just know what warning signs to look for. You said you had references?
Matthew has references.
The interview goes well enough, he’s told he’ll be called back if the references check out, if no one else comes along who has better ones, or a stronger stomach, or something equally as irrelevant that’s masked as job requirements. He’s confident enough.
When he steps out of the office he asks after the patient that had been wheeled by. He asks if they had managed to wake him up. He asks if he’s alright.
They tell him that they have him stabilized, that he’s doing alright and that the incident is being looked into. They tell him his name is Will Graham, that if Matthew gets a job here, he would do well to not go near him.
He thanks them, leaves the hospital.
In the morning he gets offered the job.
The first time he hears about Will Graham, Matthew’s still in school.
Nearly graduating, last few exams, but he can still call himself a student. He reads about the man who can see into the monsters, the man who can become them and not lose himself, and he wonders who that lie is for; the man or the monsters.
He reads every article he can find, forces himself through the archives of Tattlecrime.com, sifts through the cruel jibes, the extraneous metaphors to see if he can find the man beneath them. He finds talent, he finds a gift.
He finds a man who is terrified of what he could be if he fell far enough.
He finds someone just like him.
Will Graham doesn’t answer his phone when he calls, and Matthew can’t get into the Quantico lectures. So he keeps reading, keeps following the news, the man, the monsters inside him. He begins to see within him, further, deeper, darker. He begins to love what he finds.
When Will Graham gets arrested on allegations that he’s the Ripper, Matthew applies at the hospital.
Will’s days are dull. Mathew brings him three meals a day and watches him through the bars.
Will rarely notices. He sits with his back to the wall, his knees drawn up and arms hanging loosely draped over them. He has his eyes open but he’s not there. Matthew wonders where he goes, what he sees in that beautiful mind of his.
He never asks.
He doesn’t think Will would tell him.
When he escorts Will Graham to his meetings in the Private Room, he waits outside, settles his eyes on the people that come to see Will. The lady with soft brown hair that looks at him like he’s a killer and stifles the pain that thought brings her. The Asian woman with clever eyes and straight shoulders, who looks at Will like he’s a victim and stifles the pain at the thought that she’s wrong.
Jack Crawford, who sees Will in his cage only.
Freddie Lounds, with her flaming hair and flaming words.
When Matthew takes Will back, they never speak. And he wants to. Wants to ask him what they’d said to bring his pulse so low, when he feels it pump under his fingertips as he clips the cuffs in place. He wants to ask.
The trial has Will waking in a cold sweat and throwing up his meals.
Matthew watches, he says nothing. He starts slipping supplements into his food, watches as Will gets some strength back, just a little, for a day, two, before the cycle repeats.
He goes to the trial, listens to the lies, the anger, the pain and disbelief. He listens to the words and hears only Will’s breathing, even and slow as he sits next to his lawyer, his eyes open, his mind not there.
How he finds himself outside the bailiff’s door he doesn’t know. He knows only that his hands move quick, meticulous. That he’s creating art with this chaos, this pain and death and anger. He knows that the stag head was a bitch to drag up the stairs, and that the man weighs much more when he’s dead than when he was alive.
He feels the heat of the fire against his skin and closes his eyes to it, doesn’t step back. Lets it sear against him like the words in the newspapers have seared Will’s mind. Lets it heat and burn and twist to free itself into the night sky.
He watches Will’s face when the news comes to light. He watches the panic mingle with understanding, with a cold heavy dread. He feels his own heart hammer, sink lower, fill his blood with disappointment and anguish.
It’s me, he wants to tell him, I did this for you, I did this so you would see.
Because you’re innocent and brilliant and you are not the monsters you inhale.
I do not love you except because I love you; I go from loving to not loving you.
He doesn’t say anything. Will doesn’t ask. He doesn’t see him.
The first time they speak, Will doesn’t look at him until Matthew mentions the Tattlecrime interview. Until he brings himself into the picture, interrupts Will’s sifting mind until it settles on the words, on their meaning, and he turns his head.
People don’t understand much about me. Will blinks, finally raises his eyes and sees Matthew properly, after weeks of trying and failing and stifling the denial that he hadn’t tried at all. He hadn’t said anything, Will hadn’t asked.
Now he says everything, watches Will’s eyes on him, revels in the consideration, in the quiet attention that follows him as he moves. He does Will the courtesy of not walking behind him to make him tense up, like Chilton does. He doesn’t step away like Hannibal Lecter. He speaks, Will listens.
He guesses about the bailiff, and Matthew has to smile.
Will guesses about the judge, and Matthew feels like he’s losing him, like suddenly all the thought and gentle devotion has slipped right by to whoever had killed the other man instead. The same fear is back in Will’s expression, the same resignation.
So Matthew unlocks the door.
I need a favor.
He watches Will, watches the way he lets his eyes slip out of focus, lets himself sink just a little into the meditative state Matthew has seen him submerge himself in. It’s strangely intoxicating, strangely peaceful. When Will blinks, Matthew mirrors. Expects the words, prepares for them.
Set me free.
Take me away.
You understand me.
I want you to kill Hannibal Lecter.
Will’s words don’t waver, they just make the wrong shape, sound jagged and tilted, and Matthew looks away. Ducks his head and leaves the man to his own scheming. To his anger and his revenge, his cruelty and his blindness.
He leaves him, blood roaring hot in his ears, heart almost disturbingly slow.
I hate you deeply…
He doesn’t pass the keys off as he should. He doesn’t think or speak or breathe.
…and hating you bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you is that I do not see you but love you blindly.
He leaves the hospital and gets into his car. And he drives until he finds Hannibal Lecter.
The last time he touches Will Graham is through the bars in his cell, and it’s technically Will who touches him.
He turns his head, reaches through and takes his sleeve. Matthew doesn’t bother transferring the keys to his other hand, doesn’t bother moving them away, Will doesn’t need them. He doesn’t want them.
He goes when Will pulls him, lets his eyes slide barely open as Will’s had been the first time he had seen him and Will had not seen him back. He tells him this and Will kisses the words from his lips, feeds him new ones. From waiting to not waiting for you, my heart moves from cold to fire.
He stays a while, lingering lips to lips and nose to nose. He smiles only when Will smiles, only then.
Maybe January light will consume my heart with its cruel ray, stealing the key to true calm…
The cameras are unplugged, the microphones unwired. He could stay forever. He could take him from behind the bars and make him vanish. He tells him this and Will’s fingers curl harsher in his shirt.
He tells him he needs a favor.
Always happy to do a favor for a friend.
In this part of the story I am the one who dies. The only one.
It doesn’t hurt physically as much as it stifles his voice and sets a lump in his throat that threatens tears.
The marble is cold when he impacts it, the floor slippery from water and blood.
Maybe your murders will become my murders…
Maybe he’ll see me for this, know me for this, understand that he understands me already, that I understand him. Maybe I will die of love because I love you.
The shot still rings through his ears, echoing, pressing the memory of Will’s skin from his mind and further into illusion, pushing the doctor’s voice farther and deeper into his brain instead. Will Graham is not what you think. He is more. He is more than a man, than a genius, than himself. He is more and I can see it. He’s not a murderer.
And that… that Matthew can’t argue.
He coughs, restrains the moan that wants to choke free, and kicks the bucket out from under the doctor’s feet. A favor for a friend.
Because I love you, love, in fire and blood.