The pure, unadulterated shock that Will feels at the sight of a very much alive Abigail is nearly enough to make him drop the gun that now hangs limp in his hands. He doesn’t, though, and listens, stunned as she speaks, voice permeated with frenzied fear but still so familiar.
“I didn’t know what else to do, so I just did what he told me.”
“Where is he?” he doesn’t know what answer he hopes to hear but before he can decide, he sees her eyes shift to focus on something behind him and he knows that Hannibal is still here. That he hasn’t left like Will told him to.
And sure enough, it is the bloodied, disheveled visage of Hannibal Lecter that greets him as he turns. He is a wreck and the sight makes his chest clench painfully.
“You were supposed to leave.” The accusation sounds choked and desperate but the words and the emotion driving them are far too real. The gun remains forgotten in his grip despite of the danger staring into his eyes.
“We couldn’t leave without you.” A large, familiar hand cups his face tenderly, reverently and he knows, as he sees pain and betrayal flash in Hannibal’s eyes, what is coming next.
He doesn’t scream as the blade slices through his flesh, doesn’t do anything but clutch at Hannibal when the other man pulls him close in a tight embrace that is somehow more intimate than anything else they’ve shared. Perhaps because, finally, there are no more lies, no more barriers between them. No Jack.
He barely registers the physical pain as he is too overwhelmed by the sharp, crippling sting of betrayal- both his and Hannibal’s- that floods his senses. He understands- and accepts- exactly how Hannibal feels and why he did this to Will. Understanding doesn’t ease his anguish, doesn’t stop the tears that spill forth, unbidden.
“Time did reverse,” Hannibal whispers into his ear, voice raw with pain and something else, “The teacup that I shattered did come together. A place was made for Abigail in your world. You understand? A place was made for all of us. Together. I wanted to surprise you. And you… you wanted to surprise me.”
There are a lot of things Will wants to tell him. He wants to say that he’s sorry for the deception. He wants to tell him that everything they had was real and that Will did choose Hannibal ultimately. He wants to tell him that the warning was in earnest, that he really did want Hannibal to be safe. He wants to apologize for what he’s about to do.
In the end, Will doesn’t say any of these things. He just holds him tighter and presses his lips to Hannibal’s ear. His voice is a hoarse, broken whisper when he whispers the words he has wanted to say for so very long.
“I love you.”
And when he pushes the barrel of his gun against Hannibal’s stomach and pulls the trigger, he makes no effort to rein in the half-scream, half-sob that drowns out the quiet gasp of the man in his arms.
They fall to the floor locked in a gruesome parody of an embrace and Will’s last thought before darkness claims him is that he wants Hannibal to live.
Will is surprised when he wakes, surprised he is still alive. He wonders, briefly, if Hannibal had intended for him to live as he had intended for Hannibal to live.
Alana is there beside him, asleep in a hospital wheelchair, holding one of his lands loosely in hers. She wakes moments after he does, but the helplessly relieved smile on her face doesn’t stir anything inside of him like it might have once.
He just feels numb.
“I’m so glad you’re awake,” she tells him and Will tries, in vain, to shape his lips into a smile. So he settles for questioning her.
“How long have I been out?”
“Two weeks. You were in a coma… you lost so much blood Will.”
Two weeks. A lot could have happened in two weeks.
“Alana, what happened to… to Abigail?”
He can see the reluctance to answer in her eyes and doesn’t even give her time to vocalize her protest.
“She’s dead, Will.” He doesn’t feel the pain he can hear in her voice, maybe because he had so little time to even accept the idea that she was alive in the first place. He is too familiar with the reality of her death for this to hurt as much as it should. It still hurts, though, in a dull, throbbing way.
“How?” Alana grimaces, a tear tracing a solitary path down too-pale cheeks.
“Abigail wasn’t… well. She was barely responsive to anything. And a couple of days ago… she killed herself, Will.”
Part of him thinks that was probably for the best. Because the petrified shell of a girl he’d seen that day in Hannibal’s house was not Abigail Hobbs as he had known her. Maybe now, she can finally be at peace. Part of him is feels like he’s dying again.
She shakes her head sadly, seemingly not as affected by Jack’s fate as she was by Abigail’s.
“Jack has lost his voice, probably permanently. Otherwise, he’s fine. Physically at least. But with this and Bella getting worse… I don’t know how he’ll end up.”
Again, he feels very little. But he does think it’s appropriate that Jack got his closure, though the price was far too steep for it to ever be worth it. The next name dies on his tongue and he finds himself unable to go there just yet. But the look in Alana’s eyes suggest that she knows all too well what he can’t bring himself to ask.
“How about you?” he asks instead.
“I’ll walk again… one day. Not anytime soon though.”
Neither speak again for some time after that. Idly, he wonders why a nurse or doctor hasn’t shown up yet. Not that he’s complaining. He doesn’t particularly want anyone fussing over him. And he doesn’t really feel all that bad, except for that tight, extremely uncomfortable feeling where…
“Is Hannibal-” is as far as he gets before his voice deserts him. All of a sudden, he feels far too much and he closes his eyes against the onslaught of a cocktail of emotions he can’t summon the strength to sort through. All he knows is that the phantom pain in his chest- right where his heart should be- is so much more intense than anything he’s ever felt before.
He wants, more than anything, for Hannibal to still be alive. And even the thought that he might not be…
“He’s alive.” A breath that he wasn’t aware of holding rushes out of him at her words and Will ignores the way her eyes narrow at him. She doesn’t stop explaining though and he hangs on to her every word with an alien desperation. “He was conscious when the ambulance got there, I think. I wasn’t exactly lucid, so… He woke up a few days ago. They told me… that the first thing he asked was if you were alive. Will, are you alright?”
There’s nothing he can do to stop the sobs that wreck his body as it all sinks in, tears spilling forth endlessly at the violent assault of cherished and condemned memories that rise to the surface of his mind and threatens to eat away at his sanity, or whatever’s left of it.
He is distantly aware of the nurse that comes inside the room to check him over, but neither her words nor her actions register.
He falls back asleep tasting bitter tears at the back of his throat and with Hannibal’s face behind his lids.
Will sees Alana again a few more times before his trial. She is withdrawn and her eyes no longer have that spark. He knows her spirit is crushed, knows there is nothing he can do to help. So when she tells him that she’ll be moving to her parents’ home in Australia after his trial- no matter what the outcome- he is neither surprised nor hurt. He can only hope that a change will help her, that she isn’t as lost as he is.
As for the trial… he couldn’t care less about it. He knows he’ll be found guilty. He’ll be the first to admit- if only to himself (and Hannibal, whispers a voice in his mind) - that Randall Tier’s death at his hands wasn’t entirely self-defense.
His lawyer- a friendly young woman named Molly Foster- tries her best though. In her defense, the case was doomed from the start. Hannibal’s trial occurring a mere week before his own doesn’t do him any favors either- pretty much everyone now thinks that he was the Ripper’s associate, though Hannibal claimed no such thing. An uncaring client, a biased jury and a senior F.B.I Agent determined to see him incarcerated… he almost feels sorry for Molly.
Will is not entirely pleased about being sent to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane yet again, but at least Chilton isn't there. He wishes he knew where they sent Hannibal and tries not to think about how he would probably never see him again. The cell beside his is empty when they escort him inside, but he isn’t all that interested anyway.
He intends to survive but he doesn’t fool himself into thinking that he’ll ever live again.
Almost a month passes by without much incident; he gets no visitors- not all that shocking, Chilton’s replacement rarely bothers with him and life is… bland. The only person he has any contact with is the new orderly- Barney- a surprisingly kind and friendly man. He remembers Mathew- eager, devoted Mathew- and wonders where he is now. Probably somewhere in here. Barney is nothing like him, though.
He takes to spending most of his time in his mind, though it is no longer a safe place for him. The serene stream often turns into a river of thick, hot blood strewn with the bodies of people he’d loved. Still, he stays there, because it is better than the alternative. Mostly, he just replays his many conversations with Hannibal. It’s his personal brand of torture, one he is addicted to. The hurt and pain he feels at the thought of what might have been are really the only things that make him feel alive these days.
If I’m ever apprehended, my memory palace will serve as more than a mnemonic system. I will live there.
He wonders if that’s what Hannibal’s doing now. He wonders if he sees Will in the rooms of his vast palace as he sees Hannibal- painfully human, the wendigo long gone- beside him in the river of his mind.
Could you be happy there?
He hopes he is.
Wills curiosity is slightly piqued when someone- he can’t see who- is moved to the cell adjacent to his. He remembers Gideon and their fruitless conversations born more out of necessity than anything else. Now, he has no wish to talk to anyone… except one. But even then, if he were to see Hannibal ever again, he wouldn’t really know what to say.
For all his empathy and insight, he has difficulty imagining words that would not shrivel up and die in the face of their betrayals.
In the end, it is thanks to Barney that he finally hears the name of his neighbor in one of those moments when he isn’t cocooned in his own mind.
“You’ve got more mail, Dr Lecter.”
The name is like a verbal slap, firmly pulling him completely back into reality with dizzying speed. He doesn’t quite believe his ears- it is all too possible that he imagined it with how his thoughts linger obsessively on the man- but there is no mistaking the familiar cadence of the voice that responds, the words unintelligible due to the rushing in his ears.
Will sits stock-still for what feels like hours, unable to move even a muscle. His mind is reeling and his body is frozen. Words and sobs alike die in his throat, never making it out into the open.
It takes several attempts to finally say the familiar name, but his voice comes out so raw and rough that he is sure that it isn’t even heard by the intended person. So he draws in a deep breath and tries again, his voice stronger this time.
The voice is flat and neutral in a way that he’s never heard directed at him before. He wants, in that moment, to see him; see that familiar face with its familiar planes. He wants to know if those maroon eyes would light up in that strange, subtle way they did with only Will.
And while he is disappointed at how futile the desire is, a part of him is glad because he doesn’t know what he’ll do if they remain blank and cold.
Will doesn’t speak again after that and neither does Hannibal. He curls upon his narrow cot and allows silent tears born of equal parts relief and misery to trail down his face.
Will doesn’t try to speak to Hannibal the next day, partly because he has no idea what to say and partly because he is, by no means, in a mental state suited to holding a conversation with Hannibal Lecter.
So he spends the day schooling his mind, though it is not easy to rid himself of the dull apathy that settled over him ever since he woke up in that hospital. The effort to sort out his feelings in regard to the man in the neighboring cell turns out to be completely in vain, which isn’t really much of a surprise. There is too much twisted history between the two of them for anything to have much clarity. Still, the weight of his conflicting emotions sits hard and heavy on his chest, reminding him why he’d resorted to that cold apathy in the first place.
Only when he is sure that he is completely himself does he speak again and even then, the words that slip past his lips make him cringe.
“I would have expected this of Chilton. I didn’t think anyone else would have the sheer audacity to place us in adjacent cells.”
Will waits with bated breath but for a while there is no reply and he closes his eyes in disappointment. They flash open just as quickly when a familiar voice answers.
“Dr Hall seems to believe that this exposure will yield some interesting results, given our history.”
Will had met the woman only once and he had remained mostly silent during their short exchange. He almost asks Hannibal whether she likes to listen in on conversations like her predecessor, but refrains. He doesn’t really care. This opportunity is worth it anyway.
“Abigail is dead.” He’s not sure if Hannibal already knows, but the words needed to be spoken regardless. An acknowledgment of the consequences of both of their actions. He recalls a toast and the words that accompanied it.
To the truth then. And its consequences.
“I know.” That blank tone is beginning to grate on his nerves, but he knows full well that there is nothing he can do about it. Another… consequence of his actions. His betrayal.
“Why didn’t you leave with her when I warned you? You could have avoided… all this.” Even as he asks, he can’t help but wonder what he would have done if Hannibal had ran. Will would have chased him, he knows. But what’d have happened when (when, not if) he caught up? Maybe they would have ended up like this anyway. Maybe one or both of them would be dead. And maybe, they would have had the ending Hannibal had envisioned (and Will had dreamed of, only to bury it all in the depths of his mind) and lived as one, big, happy family.
He supposes he’ll never know now.
“As I said, Will-” there is a hint of something in Hannibal’s voice when he says Will’s name, but it is gone as soon as it appears, “- we couldn’t have left without you.”
“You knew though, that I wasn’t… entirely on your side. You wouldn’t have done what you did otherwise.” He’s wondered, ever since he woke up with a scar marring the pale flesh of his abdomen, about what gave it away. He likes to think that it wasn’t him, because he knows more than anyone else, that most of it wasn’t an act at all.
If he’s honest with himself, he can admit that the person he was with Hannibal is the truest version of Will Graham to exist.
“I knew, yes. I smelled Freddie Lounds’ shampoo on you, that day, at my office.”
Will can’t really contain the snort that escapes him at that news. Of all the things to give him away, it would have to be Hannibal’s ridiculous sense of smell.
Fate does have a fucking weird sense of humor.
He presses back more firmly against the wall, wishing he could just pass through it to the man on the other side, look into his eyes as they talk. He remembers something else and the laughter dies down, only to be replaced by a sad smile.
We could disappear tonight. Feed your dogs. Leave a note for Alana. Never see her or Jack again.
The closest, he’s sure, Hannibal has ever come to pleading.
He takes a moment to let regret and longing wash over him, to indulge in another fantasy of what could have been.
“Even then, you wanted me to come with you, didn’t you?”
You really did love me, didn’t you? Will wants to ask, but doesn’t.
Hannibal remains silent for a long, long time but when he does finally speak, his voice isn’t cold or empty. Instead, it is filled with emotion that scalds Will with its intensity.
“I let you know me. See me. I gave you a rare gift. But you didn’t want it.”
“Didn’t I?” he retorts before he can stop himself, but he desperately wants to make Hannibal see that he did want it. That he still cherished that gift. “Do you really think it was all an act, Hannibal? If so, then you’re a fucking idiot.”
He’s never cursed at Hannibal before, but he can’t even bring himself to regret the crass language.
“You wanted to take away my freedom, Will. Confine me to a prison cell.” There was anger lacing Hannibal’s voice- something he’s never heard before- with a hint of anguish underneath it. “And you succeeded.”
“You didn’t give me a choice, Hannibal! Why the hell do you think I warned you? You were supposed to leave, goddammit. With or without me. If you were so fucking fond of your freedom, why did you stay?” He is nearly panting by the time he’s finished, anger and despair leaving him breathless.
Typically enough, it is not an answer he receives, but another question. One that he is extremely hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone answer.
“Did you mean it when you said you loved me?”
“It’s rude to answer a question with another, Hannibal. And I do know how you despise rudeness.”
He can easily imagine how annoyed Hannibal must be but his voice is perfectly calm when he replies.
“Quid pro quo, William. I’ve already answered a number of your questions, even when I had no reason to. Not returning the simple courtesy would be rude. So tell me, did you mean what you said?”
Will laughs harshly and his words are a near growl, “What do you think?”
“The action succeeding your words did little to convince me of their truth.”
“May I remind you that you had no problem gutting me even though you claimed to love me? And we both know you would have left me there to die if I had not shot you.”
“You would not have died.” Hannibal tells him and even though it’s something Will already suspected, the actual confirmation makes him feel somewhat lighter. “And you have yet to answer my question.”
“Yes,” he whispers quietly, knowing that it isn’t loud enough for Hannibal to hear. He takes a deep breath and repeats the answer, louder this time.
“Yes, I meant it. I… still do.”
A pregnant silence reigns between them and when Hannibal shows no signs of responding, he presses, “Your turn, Hannibal.”
“I wanted to see you, before I… left. You hurt me, Will. I let you in and you betrayed me.”
Hannibal’s voice is quiet; solemn in a way that makes his heart ache. He can’t even be bothered by the fact that Hannibal had waited with the intention of harming him. Because he knows he had been tempted to kill Will, but had spared him instead.
“I’m sorry,” he says. He wants to whisper the words against Hannibal’s lips and press against him until they merge into one.
“I wanted… I don’t even know what I wanted anymore. It wasn’t an act, Hannibal. I lied about Freddie and Jack, but everything else was real.” He can’t even be embarrassed about how small and strangled his words sound. All he can focus is on the urgent desperation to make Hannibal understand. “Don’t you even think that I didn’t want to see you. I loved you, knowing full well what you are. Everything I showed you was real. I let you in just as much as you let me in, Hannibal. I came to your house, prepared to let you kill me because it was the only apology I could offer. Then, I saw Abigail and I needed to protect her… but she’s gone anyway and I-”
Hannibal’s voice, gentler than it has any right to be, stops him halfway through his rant. It is a struggle to bring himself back under control, but the other man is patient and silent and gives him time. Only after his heart settles down into a familiar, normal rhythm does he speak again.
“I forgive you, Will.”
The words take a moment too long to properly register and Hannibal is talking again before Will can muster an appropriate response-if there is one.
“But will you forgive me?”
No sane person would. No sane person should. Hell, no sane person would be having a conversation like this in the first place.
Will hasn’t been sane in a long time.
“I forgave you when I pulled the trigger, Hannibal.”
He doesn’t know if it’s his oversensitive, overactive imagination, but it’s like he can feel Hannibal’s pleasure at the admission even when separated by a solid wall. A slight smile curls his lips despite how fucked up all of this is.
He knows this is not the end of this particular line of conversation, knows that neither of them will be satisfied by that. They’ll need to repair their broken trust and that will take time.
But for now, he is content and he finally allows himself to consciously acknowledge the fact that he needs-not love, not want though all that is there too- Hannibal in a way that is probably not healthy.
“Yes, Will?” there is a definite undercurrent of unbridled joy in those two words and Will knows- how could he not have known it before- that Hannibal needs him just as much, just as dangerously.
His words are greeted by a dry chuckle that brings another smile to his lips.