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Talking to the Dead (Hannibal Ficlets)

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“You ate at his table, so you must have liked it.”

Will is tired of having this argument. It goes round and around in circles, and it always ends the same. He wishes she would stop torturing him, but he takes his place in the conversation just as he’s supposed to. To do otherwise would be rude.

“I didn’t—not all the time. It was for a purpose. I meant to catch him. Cage him. Surely you can understand that.”

Chiyoh’s gaze is steel overlaid with a soft and pretty face, and she gives no quarter. “Intention has very little to do with outcome. Actions matter, not thoughts. Whether you liked it or not has little bearing on what you did. Who you ate.”

“You just said that I liked it. You said it as though it has some bearing on how I will be judged.”

She shrugs one slim shoulder. “This is your mind, your thoughts. I can hardly help it if they pull in many directions at once.”

“I liked you better when you were Abigail.”

“And yet you’ve decided that Abigail deserves to go to her rest in peace, away from all of this. You’ve decided I deserve no such consideration.”

Unfair.

“You’re alive, living and thriving somewhere far away from the both of us. What I do in my mind hardly affects you. In fact it doesn’t affect you at all.”

She looks at him as though he’s stupid. It’s the look he’d seen before she pushed him from the back of a moving train, memorized and repurposed in perfect living detail. “If you think that I’m free from this, you may have hit your head harder than I thought. None of us are ever getting free, not from him.”

Will smiles, and it tugs at the edges of his scar. “Now you do sound like Abigail.”

“Of course I do.”

They’re silent for a while longer, watching the sun as it sinks over the rushes. Chiyoh breaks the silence first. She cocks her head.

“When you imagine that I’m happy, that I’m living somewhere in—Europe?” She looks to him for confirmation and he nods. “When you imagine that I’m free and thriving, does it comfort you?”

He watches a thrush sing from the bushes, looking for its mate.

“I like to think that everyone we’ve touched is living out their lives somewhere far away. Like we’ve been cut cleanly away, excised like a tumor, and the body has healed around the hole we left, neatly and without a scar. I like to think no one remembers us at all.” The bird’s mate joins it, and they fling themselves into the sky together, swooping and dipping against the backdrop of a vibrant sunset. “But I know it’s unlikely, so I don’t find much comfort in it.”

“That’s good,” Chiyoh says. “I don’t like the idea of you being comforted.”

“No, you like the idea of me being judged.”

She stares at the side of his head until he turns. The weight of her gaze burns against his scar, and she looks until she’s sure he’s looking.

“No,” she says. “You do.”