Chapter 1: Chiyoh
“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.”
“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.”
Chapter 2: Abigail
“But which one is the best?” Will asks, looking at the various realities shimmering in front of him like water in a pond. He sticks his hand out to touch one, and it ripples.
The best of all possible worlds, someone had said that to him once. It echoes in his head.
Abigail tosses her hair and shrugs. “They’re all terrible in their own way.”
She's sarcastic for an oracle. He doesn't say it aloud, but she must hear it anyway because she gives him a grin with too many teeth.
“I’m still a teenager.”
Will swallows. He tries to find the question that will earn him the answer he wants. “Are there any where we’re happy?”
Another shrug. “Sometimes.”
“Are there any where you live?”
She gives him a flat look.
Chapter 3: Beverly
“Doesn’t it bother you? What he is. What he's done.”
Beverly, Will, and beer.
Will is lying on his back in the middle of a cold, wet field. It hasn’t rained lately that he’s aware of, but the ground is damp all the same. He doesn’t mind very much, not even when the cold starts to prickle at his skin, wetting him through layers of flannel and denim. He’s far away from the city here. There’s not a light on the ground for miles. No people either. The sharp, stiff grass presses into his arm where it’s propped beneath his head.
“You’ve got to stop bringing me here like this, Graham.”
Will takes another long pull of his beer, the stuff Hannibal would call swill, domestic and thin. His palate has changed enough that he appreciates the craft beer that Hannibal sometimes brews, stuffed full of hops, yarrow, other things he can barely pronounce. His tastes have changed enough that this may as well be metallic water, but he drinks it for the ritual of it, for the nostalgia buried in between swigs of cheap beer.
“Don’t you like the view?” He asks, turning his head toward Beverly.
She shrugs. “I’d like it better if I weren’t dead.”
“But aren’t the stars nice?”
She doesn’t say anything. He drinks his beer.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” Beverly asks, propping herself up to look at Will’s face. Even knowing she isn’t real, it makes him squirm. “What he is. What he’s done?”
Will makes eye contact for just a second, because he owes her that much. It’s hard to sustain even when she isn’t there, the flinty, knowing look in her eyes and his own particular pathology combining to mean that his gaze slides off her face like water from a rock. She has mercy on him eventually and resettles herself at his side, pillowing her head on her hands to stargaze with him.
His eyes trace the slow path they cut across the sky, Cassiopeia and Orion. A million pinpricks of light. She doesn’t say anything, but he knows she’s still waiting.
“It should,” he says after a time.
“But it doesn’t,” Beverly says.
“No,” Will says. “It doesn’t.”
She sighs. “Pass me a beer.”
Chapter 4: A Love Simple and Tender
"Doesn't it hurt, loving someone like this?"
This is just a short little coda that veers off in a slightly different direction from the original.
In the aftermath of their pleasure, Hannibal pulls Will’s head up from where he’s breathing humid, shallow breaths against Hannibal’s skin. The touch is nothing more than the suggestion of pressure, a warm hand against his chin.
He’s hot and sticky in his skin, body stuck to Hannibal’s under the covers in all the places they touch. He’d sweated through the sheets before they’d laid a finger on each other, and it’s only gotten worse, the exquisitely expensive cotton sheets grown slippery under their bodies. It’s a remarkably unpleasant feeling, but still nothing compared to the discomfort of Hannibal staring into his eyes, searching with a keenness that cuts like a knife.
Will doesn’t wonder that Hannibal can see him even in the dark, and Hannibal doesn’t wipe his tears away. He doesn’t offer comfort or an end to the pain. He simply drinks it down, eyes tracking the progress of each tear as it falls, adding to the ocean of salt their bodies have made of the bed. Will doesn’t pull away. This is reciprocity. This is where they live—seeing and being seen, a mirror observing itself.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” Will asks, touching the bow of Hannibal’s mouth. “Loving someone like this.”
Will waits until Hannibal has looked his fill before pulling away gently. They are careful with each other as only those living in glass houses can be, delicate and cautious, wary of moments with rocks in their fists. Will tucks his head into the crook of Hannibal’s neck and breathes deep, taking in the sleep-warmed scent of him. He smells like sweat and sour morning breath, like the remnants of soap they both share.
He smells living and animal.
Will wonders if he’ll have to give it back eventually; everything dies. Hannibal talks of God often, in the language of church collapses and dead devotees. Will doesn’t wonder at it, not like Hannibal does. He’s content to leave God in the halls of his childhood, haunting the dusty churches Will had been dragged to in his ratty Sunday’s best, in those pews stuffed with cloying devotion that made him ache and gag. Hannibal can do the same—what does Will need God for?
He does think, sometimes, that if there’s a heaven at all, it’s not for the two of them.
It suits him just fine. If he’s expected to give Hannibal back—to the law or the world, to God himself—they’ll have to take him from Will’s bloody hands.
Not even Will’s dreams can have him.
Chapter 5: The Darkest Timeline
Will Graham meets Abed Nadir.
I've been rewatching Community, and considering "The Darkest Timeline" has been what I've called the Way Down series in my head forever, it seemed only fitting to bring in the source. A Community x Way Down verse crossover.
“Oh, I get it,” Abed says. “You’re in the darkest timeline.”
“Whenever there’s an event that could go one of multiple possible ways—coin tosses, dice rolls—it creates splinters in the timeline. Offshoots, if you will. Some of those timelines are better than others. And if some are better and some are worse, then it stands to reason that one of them is worst of all—the darkest timeline. Have you rolled any dice recently?”
“No, I haven’t.”
Abed drinks his cocktail, and Will toys with his glass, rolling its edge along the bar counter to watch the whiskey slosh against the sides. This is crazy. The kid—and he really is a kid, younger than Adam, even—clearly has one foot planted firmly in the realm of fantasy. Every other word out of his mouth is a movie reference, reality and fiction twining together in a screaming technicolor amalgam. But—
“I did jump off a cliff holding the love of my life.”
Abed’s face doesn’t change. “Murder-suicide attempt?”
“A roll of the dice,” Will says at last.
“Well, there’s your problem,” Abed says. He launches into some kind of bit, a pop culture reference Will doesn’t understand, and Will leaves him to it, draining the last of his drink.
It sticks with him despite his better judgment, buzzing in his head along with the whiskey the entire walk home.
* * *
Abed wanders back to the group. Britta and Jeff have stopped arguing in favor of hanging all over each other trying to swallow each other’s faces. Shirley is nowhere to be seen, and Annie is alternating between staring into her drink and staring at Jeff and Britta.
“Hey buddy, where you been?” Troy asks.
“I was talking to someone at the bar. I think he killed someone.”
“Do you want to go home and watch Inspector Spacetime?” Abed asks.
“Yeah,” Troy says. “Drunk people are boring.”
“Tell me about it.”
Chapter 6: Pigs and Pot
Will and his dad talk about pot.
This is a scene I wrote for Far from the Tree that didn't end up fitting. I still like it a lot, though, so I'll just post it here as a little outtake. If you haven't read that fic, all you need to know is that Will's dad comes to France to visit him and Hannibal several years post-fall.
"Your boyfriend, is he on drugs?"
Will laughs, a limping, humorless thing. "Him? No, it would upset the balance of the ironclad control he thinks he has."
His dad raises his eyebrows. "There's a story there," he says, but he doesn't push it. "How about you? You ever light up a joint? You know you can do that now that you're not a pig anymore."
Will winces at the word ‘pig’—can't help it. There are too many associations with that word now. Most of them come with the scent of blood and the sound of screams, the taste of Hannibal's cooking on his tongue, rich and salty.
"Don't call them pigs, Dad." He rolls his eyes more out of force of habit than anything else.
His dad snorts. "Son, you're a goddamn serial killer. You can call the pigs what they are."
Will shrugs. Doesn't say anything. Takes another drag of his cigarette. He's not a seasoned smoker. His dad finishes his cigarette before Will is finished with his, but even so, Will smokes it down to the filter. "I tried it a couple times, in high school. In college."
"Caught you one of those times," Bill says.
Will's mouth twists up in a hint of a smile. He remembers
"It never really appealed," he says. "Getting out of my own head was never really the problem. Associations came freely—stemming the tide was the part I never quite got the hang of." He shrugs. Stubs out his cigarette underfoot, then picks it up because Hannibal might murder him if he leaves cigarette butts littering the lawn. "So no, I don't really like drugs."