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I Do (But I Can't)

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The sea doesn’t wash everything away.

After the blood and salt, the grand operatic tragedy of it all, there is this: a quiet house and the shuffling of feet. Burnt toast at breakfast and a wedding ring that belongs to someone else, which almost but never quite makes it off Will’s finger.

 

The most we can hope for

 

Routine is easy to establish. It’s horrendously easy to fall into a pattern and make it the baseline. Easy as dying to find a new normal.

Normal is now: Softly mussed hair and a sleep-rumpled smile across the table at breakfast. Reading on the couch with only the tips of toes touching. Sleeping in separate beds down the hall. Nightmares and nightmares and nightmares and

Meat that almost tastes like pork but not quite.

 

The most we can hope for is

 

Will’s skin crawls when Hannibal puts his hands on him. They try to kiss, and he has to tamp down a searing wave of revulsion. There’s a tongue in his mouth and lips on his lips. Hannibal hums into his skin, and Will counts to ten and breathes though his nose and wills his body to stop revolting.

There’s no answering pull of lust. He just waits it out. It’s not for lack of trying, but he just doesn’t— he can’t—

He isn’t wired like that.

“I’m sorry, this just isn’t working.”

 

The most we can hope for
is a relationship that will scar us in interesting ways.
Break us along similar fault lines

 

“I do love you. I do.” He is forceful. Vehement, adamant.

Hannibal’s smile is tired and delicate. Like it’s been shattered and put back together in all the wrong ways. “I know you do. Goodnight, Will.”

He closes the door and shuts out the light.

 

I can’t coax myself into seeing you the way you want to be seen.

 

Will has never thought particularly hard about relationships before. He’s had few enough of them, and the ones he’s had he always stumbled into. It was as easy to say yes as it was to say no, easy to fall into bed giggling and kissing and rubbing skin on skin. He’s never fallen in love so much as slipped down into a warm bath of it.

He’s never had this sense of not being enough before. It’s outside of his wheelhouse, but Will’s always been a quick learner.

He learns lots of things now, takes a crash course in disaster. The classes all have names like it’s hard loving someone when you can’t do it right and doing the best you can doesn’t mean it’s good enough.

There are hundreds of ways to hurt someone, and they master them all. In the end, it doesn’t actually matter that he and Hannibal stopped wanting to hurt each other years ago. Intention doesn’t count. Fault doesn’t necessarily come into it either.

You’re born gay or you aren’t. Everyone knows that.

 

We are broken and dark, but

 

you feel like home.

 

Why do you feel like that?

 

The seasons change and no one leaves. He grits his teeth, and no one leaves. This isn’t life— but no one leaves.

 

I’m not sure I can survive without you now.

 

They celebrate their anniversaries quietly, without much fanfare. There is dinner and dessert, quiet conversations where they linger over wine. They are something that isn’t friends and something that’s not lovers. If there’s a word for what they are, Will never finds it, and Hannibal doesn’t care to try.

People assume they’re married now; they do it all the time. It’s an innocent mistake to make. After all, they hold hands so often.

They sleep in separate beds down the hall, and

Will isn’t happy, but he isn’t leaving either.

 

We are going to make each other
very miserable

forever.

 

(I promise.)