Six months earlier:
Will Graham stood at the altar of a chapel, all the air stolen from his lungs, replaced with blood and the insatiable urge to scream. His tuxedo was torn, shards of glass embedded in his skin. Around him was pure chaos; he trembled with horror at the feelings overwhelming his wedding guests. Pain. Fear. Dread. Everything was razor-sharp, the world thrown into clarity by the sheer impossibility of something like this happening. Although Will wanted to run, to protect, to hide, his body was frozen still, paralyzed as the symphony of desperate cries grew louder and louder, until he thought he would never know peace again.
It had been ten minutes since Francis Dolarhyde walked into the church and open-fired on everyone standing. 600 seconds and more than thirty lives snuffed out. Will had never met the man, but he had seen the crime-scene photos of Dolarhyde’s other tableaus and recognized the person suspected to be the Red Dragon. He had one moment of cold realization when the door closed, right before the first gunshot lodged in the chest of Will’s future mother-in-law.
A new kind of terror seized Will when he heard a voice, soft and trembling, cut through the air. It grabbed his chest in a vise grip and refused to let go until it felt like he was suffocating. He whirled around, already knowing what he would see. Dolarhyde towered over a woman, her once-white dress stained irreversibly red. Tears ran down her face but her expression was determined as she shielded a small boy. All of the remaining oxygen in Will’s lungs left his body suddenly. Not Molly. Anyone but her.
“...please, we won’t say anything... just don’t hurt the kids...they’re just children..” Molly’s eyes met Will’s, and they were filled to the brim with fear. Maybe it was just his imagination, but she mouthed the words: I love you, before turning back to face Dolarhyde. Wally’s face was scrunched up, eyes shut tightly as he curled into a small ball behind his mother. Will finally found his nerve, fueled by the intrinsic need to protect his fiancée and her child. Molly was innocent. So was Wally. They didn’t deserve to die.
None of them did.
Will’s fingers curled around a shard of glass and he leapt forward just as the gun in Dolarhyde’s hands went off with a sound that made Will’s veins ice over. Molly flew back against the marble chapel steps, spraying them with blood and flesh. For a moment, she reached out to Will. And then she slumped back against the floor and was now Molly’s body, lying prone and bleeding from two gunshots to the head.
Will went stumbling back, the glass cutting into his fingers until his own blood mixed with Molly’s below him. This time, he did scream, a blood-curdling shriek that cut through the now-silent chapel. Dolarhyde didn’t even flinch, only turning slowly to stare at Will unflinchingly as he put the barrel of the gun to Wally’s temple and fired. Will screamed again, and for a horrible moment, he thought he was the only survivor. But then he felt rather than saw Abigail by his side, and somehow that was worse. She had gotten up after playing dead on the floor, and they faced Dolarhyde.
They were going to die. But at least they would die together.
“I’m sorry,” Abigail whispered, shaking with the force of her tears. “I’m so sorry.”
Will’s hand came to rest on his daughter’s arm as Dolarhyde watched them silently. All those people dead, without so much as a word. “It’s not your fault.”
“But it is, I was the reason you left hi—” Abigail’s trembling speech was cut off with a shout as she tugged them both to the floor, narrowly missing Dolarhyde’s warning shot. Dolarhyde looked down at them and then dropped his gun. Will’s one second of hope was dashed just as quickly as Molly’s life had ended. Her last spoken words to him were ‘tomorrow morning, you’ll be my husband.’
“You are not mine to kill,” Dolarhyde began to walk away, and Will couldn’t get the strength to stand. “This is not a personal attack, Mr. Graham. It is simply my Becoming.” Will could not help but notice how he stumbled over the syllabant s. The Great Red Dragon walked out of the doors of the chapel, leaving behind him a bloody mess, a gory incubation tank for the creature within him.
But it was personal. So, so personal. Because right before the wide doors closed, Hannibal Lecter strode in, dressed to the nines, the furrow between his eyebrows contradicting the wicked grin splitting his lips.
He walked forward without even glancing at the carnage laid out for him, right down the aisle. When he came to a stop, it was right beside Will, at the altar. What tragic irony. Abigail was silent, but her hand found Will’s, slicked with red. Hannibal crouched down, smiling almost fondly, even as his eyes were as cold as ice.
All was silent. Will flinched when Hannibal, oh-so-gently, brushed the sweat and blood soaked hair from his forehead. His hand came to rest tenderly on Will’s jaw. Every breath was fragile, like the final heartbeats of a dying bird. For a single, delirious moment, Will thought they were about to kiss. But then he felt the cold slide of a blade in his stomach and knew.
This was revenge. A cruel spectacle hidden only by the adoration Hannibal plastered all over his gestures. The knife was curved, and it sliced through Will’s organs like they were made of paper. Brutally quiet as it robbed the life from Will, draining him. All the while Hannibal leaned over him, unreadable, his presence both a source of comfort and of pain. Will made a hoarse sound, clinging to consciousness.
“I would like to believe, even now, you're aware enough to know there is not a single trace of sadism in my actions.” The knife twisted in Will, and Hannibal smiled softly. “Maybe towards the others. But not to you, never towards you.” For a moment, he looked almost loving. “No, at this moment, this is me at my most masochistic.” With that, he angled the knife and tore Will’s flesh open once more.
Hannibal yanked the knife from Will’s abdomen with a sick squelch and a spurt of viscera. Now the agony came, tearing through Will as he writhed on the marble, body cut open and exposed to the air. Pools and pools of red surrounded him, and he wanted to dive inside them, swim down to the bottom, and join Molly and Walter. But Abigail. Abigail was still there. Every movement jerky, Will pressed his palm to the gushing wound.
Abigail rose up from the floor as Hannibal beckoned her forward. She went to him easily, like it was second nature. Will knew was Hannibal was planning, his empathy wouldn’t let him forget. Step by step, Abigail joined Hannibal at his place by the altar—like a sacrificial lamb being presented, white wool not yet tainted. Will sobbed; a chorus of no no no no no. Apparently, he was speaking out loud, because Hannibal gave him a sharp look and reached out to their daughter.
“Abigail.” He smiled, a madman’s twist of the lips. “Come to me.” She obliged, shuffling closer. When she was standing in from of Hannibal, she turned around. Her eyes were as big as saucers when she looked at Will, tears flowing freely.
“No...Hannibal, no please don’t do it. Hannibal, no no no. ” Will’s voice was unsteady as he begged. He wondered if it would ever be stable again. It felt like his vocal cords were being ripped from his throat, left severed and dangling down his chest. By the time Hannibal grabbed Abigail around the waist and pressed the curved knife to the side of her neck, Will was screaming. He tried to push himself up, but fell back down, accompanied by dizzy black spots in his vision.
The first spurt of blood was hot against Will’s cheek, and Abigail made a strangled noise of terror, finally trying to get away. He struggled against himself, the urge to close his eyes and wade into the quiet of the stream in his mind. The pain was deafening, rending his body into ribbons of flesh and bone. The darkness was coming quicker, fueled by the desperation with which Will cried out.
He was going to die like this, bleeding out beneath the altar where he was supposed to start a new life, with the knowledge that he had gotten everyone he ever loved killed.
“ Hannibal, pleas— ”
Will’s words cut off when he fell back into the darkness, overwhelmed by tortured fear. The last thing he saw was Hannibal’s knife at Abigail’s throat, sliding easily across the scar formed years ago, until her blood mixed with the rest of his on the marble floor. No, that wasn’t quite right.
The last thing he saw was Hannibal’s face, razors for teeth, bottomless pits for eyes, and opened arteries for lips.
Will Graham awoke too quickly to be able to imagine that everything was alright. There was no pretending he was in his bedroom, arms wrapped around Molly, with Abigail and Wally arguing outside their door whether to wake them up or let them sleep. The hospital bed was too rough, too cold, the air too sterile to be his secluded house. And then there was the IV in his arm, the beeping of the machine that let him know he was alive despite the fact that he wanted to be anything but.
Even through the haze of drugs, Will tore the IV away, sat up, and squeezed his eyes shut to keep the light from the window from shining in. The machine began to beep. If he was anybody else, the sound would have distracted him, kept him from thinking, remembering, realizing.
Molly, Wally, Abigail. Everyone.
Everyone from the new life Will had built for himself, free of murder and madness. Dead. Shot through the head, organs splattered on the chapel floor, eyes wide open to behold their God’s verdict. Everyone but him.
Will screamed, hoarse from disuse. He kept screaming until a harried nurse ran into the room, reached out for him. She spoke in soothing tones, which quickly turned into shrieks of her own when he lunged for her, aiming for the eyes. As soon as he managed to get his ring finger hooked on the outside corner of her eye, he scraped his nails down her face. Fresh blood sprang to the surface of her broken skin. The nurse tried to stumble away, but he was on her, more rabid creature than human.
“ Where are they!” He tore at her brutally, blunt fingernails shredding skin, pulling the hair right from her scalp. “ Where!”
A long time ago, someone—he couldn’t remember who—had told Will that asking questions one already knew the answer to would only lead to more conflict. But that was exactly what Will wanted. He wanted the ragged, bloodied nurse to admit to the world that a man who had his very heart cut away from him no longer had anything to lose. He wanted the world to look upon the destruction he made and to know that when the universe failed to protect Molly, protect his children, it unleashed a force so terrible that even the hosts of Hell would be scared.
Or maybe he just wanted to hurt, like he had been hurt.
Dimly, he could feel the door being thrown open, people on him, a syringe being jammed into his neck. And then he felt nothing except Molly’s presence, eyes crinkling as she smoothed his hair back and guided him into the quiet. Will rather liked it there.
When Will opened his eyes again, they locked almost immediately with those of Jack Crawford’s. The fluorescent hospital lights were too bright, but when Will tried to raise a hand to block it, he found that his wrists were strapped down. Same with his ankles. When he began to struggle against the restraints, Jack’s face remained neutral.
“Hello Will. How are you?” Although he sounded like he was making small talk, Jack’s voice was solemn. He regarded Will with an expression somewhere between pity and resolution.
Will barked out a laugh. “Oh, just fine and dandy. Can’t wait to go home to my family.” He narrowed his eyes into venomous slits. “ Oh wait…” He felt a small stab of satisfaction at the way Jack flinched.
“I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am for what happened, Will.”
Will could sense bitter, angry tears rising to his eyes, pricking at his throat. He blinked them away. For a second, he caught a glimpse of himself in the window reflection and saw not Will Graham, but someone feral, deranged. “Condolences won’t bring them back, Jack. Did thoughts and prayers manage to resurrect Bella?”
This time, glee welled up in Will at the way Jack recoiled. The moment of weakness was quickly lost to time when he rose, leaping up to lean over Will. It was like a taunt, Jack free to move while Will was tied down. “I would shut your damn mouth if I was you. Attacking that woman doesn’t help your case.”
“I don’t particularly care about my case right now, since I’m technically a victim.”
Jack sighed, exasperated. “Freddie Lounds and her band of starving reporters are right outside the door of this hospital, clamoring for a quote about how the FBI’s loose hound viciously mauled a nurse.”
Will stopped struggling, let himself fall back against the mattress. “Funny, that. I’d have thought she’d be here with a gift basket.”
“ Will.” Jack pulled himself away, began to pace around the already-cramped room. Will couldn’t help but notice the guard, hidden silently in an out of sight corner. The beeping of the machine Will was hooked up to, along with Jack’s steady footfalls, added a metronomic quality to the room that somehow increased the tension and hid it all at once. “Why did you lash out at the nurse?”
Will chuckled without a drop of humor. “Why did Dolarhyde open fire on my wedding rehearsal?”
Now that was news to Jack. He whirled around to stare directly at Will. “ Dolarhyde was there?” Will clammed up, and Jack began to run through the possibilities. “This is big news. I mean, I thought as much, but we have actual proof now.”
“Proof of what?”
Jack took a deep breath, circled around to face Will once more. He did not seem as nervous as he should have been. “You are aware that the Tooth Fairy, also known as the Red Dragon, was suspected to be Francis Dolarhyde, yes?” Will nodded, rolling his eyes. “After you refused to profile him, and after the… incident, we began investigating Dolarhyde further. Turns out, he was in contact with Hannibal Lecter, and has been during the time you’ve been out. We didn’t have proof that he was in the chapel, but now we do, thanks to you.”
Will thought he was going to be sick. “So you knew this was going to happen?”
Jack jumped back, a tiny bit of fear shining through his stony mask. “ Knew ? Don’t be stupid, Will. I never would have put you or your family in danger. No, what I knew was that Dolarhyde was no longer serving his own agenda. I had no idea he would target you. But I suspected if Hannibal was involved…”
“Hannibal wasn’t involved,” Will bit out, voice rising sharply. “He had nothing to do with what happened. That’s all on Dolarhyde.”
Jack wasn’t convinced. “Are you telling me that you’re certain Hannibal Lecter had no part to play in the murder of your new friends and family?” Will tried to force hot tears back into his body. “Forgive me if I find that hard to believe.”
“What I find hard to believe is the absolute lack of sympathy you have to have in order to come over here and tell me you knew what happened in that church. I’m telling you now, I cut all ties with Lecter in Europe. He doesn’t care for me anymore. He didn’t care when took Abigail with me when I ran, he wouldn’t care if I married someone. He. Wasn’t. There. This was all Dolarhyde and I intend to destroy him for it.” Will took a deep breath, and another. He began to feel dizzy again.
A nurse ran into the room to adjust something, and soon, Will felt like he was drifting in a cloud, far away from what was happening. His emotions vanished, replaced by calm, as he collapsed back like a puppet with its strings cut. When he looked at Jack again, he was sitting down, reading a book. So maybe more time had passed than Will initially thought. Speaking of time…
“How long has it been?”
Jack looked up, startled. “Sorry?”
“How long was I out?”
“It’s October 19th now. They brought you in exactly six months ago, February eighteenth.”
Another pang of nausea threatened to overwhelm Will. His fiancée, his children in all except blood were buried without him. Hannibal had stolen everything from him. And Will was going to make him pay.
Jack rose from his chair, snapping the book he was reading closed. Will caught a glimpse of a silver cross on the front and tried not to scoff as Jack walked closer.
“Look, Will. I’m sorry for everything that happened to you. But I’m not here to offer condolences or warn you about the press, or get information from you. I’m here because I know you and I know you’ll want revenge. The Red Dragon’s body count is growing higher and higher, and the FBI is launching a full-on manhunt for him. I’ve been advised against this but…” he took a deep breath. “If you want to help track Dolarhyde down and bring him to justice, I would be happy to have you on my team again.”
Will laughed darkly, kept laughing until the guard and Jack were giving him similar looks of concern.
“Don’t you remember what happened the last time I worked for you?” Will snapped. “My psychiatrist drove me nearly insane with encephalitis, put me in prison, and then still somehow managed to convince me to betray you and run off with him to Europe.” Will got quiet and refused to say any more.
Jack sighed, pulled his wallet out of his pocket, and pulled out a business card, his name, address, and number printed neatly across. He set it on the table next to Will with a nod. Then, he set down the Bible he was reading. Will raised an eyebrow.
“It, uh, helped me. After Bella…it was nice to read.” He turned to leave, and just as his fingers touched the door, Will spoke.
“What part do you like to read the most?”
Jack gave Will a strange look before responding. “I’m rather partial to the Gospel. Reminds me of love and better times.”
Will smiled, but it looked more like a grimace. His eyes did not mimic any of the emotion his face showed. An empty husk of a man, strapped to a hospital bed with a Bible at his side. A man with nothing to lose and everything to take.
“I prefer classic Old Testament revenge.”
Hannibal had drawn the battle lines, cut the first wounds, and Will would make sure he would pay. No matter what he had to do, no matter who he had to get through first: Will would bring down a reckoning onto Hannibal, and make sure every debt was paid for in blood.