Will gets the news that his father's died on a Thursday. He remembers it was a Thursday—will remember it forever, in fact, because he’d been planning to take the dogs to the park later. He was going to look at a boat their neighbor was trying to sell, one the neighbor had called a “fixer-upper.” He was looking forward to fixing it up. He knows it was a Thursday because when he woke up, he’d cared about so many things that didn’t matter. He’d cared so much.
He doesn’t get a phone call.
He gets an email.
He doesn’t even get an email. He finds an email, one that had been sitting for weeks in the inbox of an email account he doesn’t even use anymore—one the FBI is absolutely monitoring. He logs in looking for a picture Molly had sent him, back when he was her husband and not a monster from her memories—and he finds it. An email.
It’s from Jack, of all people. There’s a single paragraph that says Bill Graham is deceased. There’s a copy of his death certificate.
There are the facts—Caucasian male, age 68, liver disease. None of it tells him what he really wants to know.
Was it quick?
Was he scared?
Was he alone?
Will reads the email once and very deliberately does not reread it. Jack doesn’t say that he’s sorry. He doesn’t need to for Will to know that he is. Jack has always been ruthless, but he has never been cruel. That’s more Hannibal’s purview.
But sorry doesn’t bring anyone back from the dead. Not Abigail, not Beverly (those were the only ones he was ever really sorry for). Not his dad.
Will looks at the death certificate again. He memorizes the date. He stares at the lines and curves that make up William Graham’s name. William. His dad would’ve hated that. It seems like a name too big for either of them.
Will stares at the screen like the pixels might rearrange themselves. All he gets is eye strain. He closes the browser. He closes the laptop.
He gets up and walks outside without a word.
* * *
There’s a dock behind their house. Hannibal had insisted on waterfront property, and even though it was an obvious bribe—Hannibal preying on his love of boating and fishing—Will hadn’t put up a fight. He hadn’t even wanted to.
That’s where Hannibal finds him, eventually. He comes to stand beside Will where he’s standing at the edge of the grassy ledge that overlooks the sea. Will doesn’t look up when he does. It’s not like he was hiding.
Hannibal opens his mouth. He takes one look at Will’s face and closes it again, and Will wonders what exactly he sees.
Neither of them speak, until Will breaks the silence.
“My dad’s dead.”
“I’m alone now.”
“You’re not,” Hannibal says.
Will swallows. The ocean rushes against the underside of the dock in whispering waves.
“My dad was the last person who actually knew me—who knew me before.” He swallows again, against a throat that burns like acid. “He was my history.”
“You haven’t talked to your father for many years now.”
“Even before practical considerations prohibited it.”
“You mean before we went on the run from the law?” Will asks. He feels like the wind’s been knocked out of him, but he can’t help smiling a little. This is your weird fucking life, Will Graham. “Yeah.”
“Would you have called him today? Tomorrow?”
Hannibal tilts his head. “So why is this so different?”
Will looks out at the water. He kicks a loose rock in and watches it sink to the bottom. “Because… Before there was still potential, you know? I could think that maybe one day I’d call him up. Maybe one day I’d see him. And he’d see me, and it’d be—I don’t know, different. Knowing he was alive in the world, even in the back of my mind—it was like a movie put on pause. A song I could hear whenever I wanted.”
Hannibal’s expression hasn’t changed. He doesn’t pretend at the type of emotions everyone else has—not for Will, not anymore. He doesn’t pretend to be anything but what he is, and Will prefers it that way, most of the time. Maybe not right now.
“Say something,” Will says. “Tell me that’s stupid, if you want. Just, say something.”
“It isn’t stupid. The death of a parent is one of the greatest losses most people experience in their lifetimes. It’s often traumatic, especially if it’s sudden. Your feelings are normal, Will.”
A bark of unexpected laughter tears its way free from Will’s throat. It rattles some tears loose on its way out, and they prick at the corner of Will’s eyes.
“So what you’re telling me is that I’m perfectly, boringly ordinary.”
Hannibal looks at him fondly, lips tipped up in the barest suggestion of a smile. “In this, yes. Do you find it comforting? To know that you are just one of many in a long line of humanity to experience this same loss?”
Will stares at him. “No. No, I don’t, Hannibal. Jesus, you’re bad at this. Didn’t you used to be a therapist?”
Will steps closer to the ledge, until the tips of his shoes hang above thin air. He would get hurt if he fell in—probably break a leg, but nothing worse than that. It still reminds him of another ledge, another cliff from another life.
He’s put distance between the both of them, and Hannibal stays put. His eyes track the crest of the waves as they foam white at the tips and break against the rocks. He thinks of the first time he ever sailed, the first boat he ever fixed, the first fish he ever caught. He thinks of his dad, beside him for all of it.
Bill Graham had callused hands and teeth yellowed from nicotine. He had a booming laugh and a drinking problem. He’d beaten Will bloody the one and only time he’d caught him stealing, and he was sitting in the back row grinning from ear to ear when Will had graduated magna cum laude.
He doesn’t know what his dad had thought of him before he died—he’d seen Will on the news, probably. The headlines were hard to avoid. Former FBI agent runs off with notorious, escaped serial killer—it’s like a bad joke. He doesn’t want to know, but part of him had always wondered—will always wonder, now.
Eventually Will relents. Little by little he closes the gap, inching his way toward Hannibal until their fingers touch. The sunlight sparkles on the water. It looks exactly the same as it did when Will’s dad was alive.
“I’m sorry,” Hannibal says at last, quiet and sincere. “I know you loved him.”
“Yeah,” Will says. “Yeah, I did.”
They stand outside for so long that Will can feel his cheeks starting to burn in the sun. He stares out at the water, and Hannibal holds his hand.
“I know,” Will says eventually.
Hannibal gives him a questioning look.
“I know I’m not alone.”
The hand that squeezes Will’s has snuffed out more lives than Will cares to count—and yet Hannibal’s touch is comforting, in spite of everything. Despite good sense and all reason. Will squeezes back.
They go back inside the house, where life is waiting.