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The Shape of Me Will Always be You

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Many thanks to MarieCee, CrazyInL0v3, prescients, Lowrie, DeLaRun and TheRogueTrader for the beautiful cover art.

 

 

I dreamt about you today.

At least I thought I did; maybe it was more like dreaming while awake. You came into my hospital room and pulled up the shabby plastic chair, wincing a little at the scraping sound as you pulled it across the floor towards the bed. Then you folded yourself into it, crossing your long legs just so, and you…watched me. Just sitting: sitting and staring. You were wearing one of those ridiculously flamboyant suits that would look like hell on anyone else but on you lent a certain exotic, rarefied glamour. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you in one of those suits, I’d nearly forgotten about them. Years since I’ve seen you wearing anything that wasn’t institutional issue or splashed in scarlet. So initially I was looking more at the suit than I was at you. You wouldn’t have liked that, I don’t think. You’re such a narcissist.

You didn’t fit it in at all in this drab setting, all your color and energy completely misplaced. When I looked at your face you seemed attentive, a very faint smile playing around your mouth. You always were so inscrutable. Sphinx-like. I never really knew what you were thinking.

“Hello Will,” you said finally. Your eyes were like two endless black holes.

There was a long stretch of silence then I heard myself answer: “What are you doing here?” It probably wasn’t the best thing to ask you – demand of you – but then I didn’t know what else to say.

Your mouth flickered slightly at that: either amusement or annoyance, it was impossible to tell. Then for a few seconds I wondered if you were actually going to show some real emotion, but in the end all you replied was: “I wasn’t aware I needed to provide a reason.”

“You always have a reason though, don’t you?” I snapped. “You have a reason for everything. And now you’re here and you’re not even real.” Once I’ve looked at your eyes I can’t stop staring, trying not to get lost in them. You notice my fascination and my reluctance, of course you do, and that faint smile grows ever so slightly broader. You relish it (narcissist).

I close my own eyes to get away from yours, and in the darkness I hear you push back the chair and prowl towards the bed. You’re sauntering, lithe and cat-like – I can’t see you but I know that you are – and I feel the mattress dip as you sit down. I sense your breath on my face, incredibly light, barely there, your spidery fingers brushing over my cheekbone, and I breathe in again and open my eyes. At least I think I do, maybe they were already open; and of course you’re not there. There’s a gloomy dribble of light from under the door, and the blinking of the heart monitor, and footsteps, and muttered voices, and all the sounds of sickness and death, but there’s no you, and you are spectacularly loud in your absence. The room screams with its lack of you.

I take a deep breath, and it hurts, and I untangle the IV line to grab the glass of water next to the bed. My hands are shaking.

It’s almost unbearable that even my mental version of you still manages to remain several steps ahead.

*****

Kade Purnell is sat next to the bed, sat on your chair (it’s always going to feel like Your Chair now, I can tell). She’s been here nearly an hour, barking questions at me like a dog. Yap yap yap. I can’t tell how much of her defensiveness is down to genuine reservations about the statement I gave (which wasn’t exactly lies, as opposed to a liberal manipulation of the truth…sort of like Bullshit Lite), and how much is her just being a dick for the sake of it: bludgeoning me with her authority simply because she can. Maybe she just wants to feel that she’s been thorough, ticking boxes and crossing/dotting the requisite amount of t’s and i’s. I’m not sure really, she’s hard to read. Although I suppose with one dead and mangled serial killer, one missing one, and a half-dead FBI profiler washed up on a beach, that the thoroughness is not entirely unreasonable.

She says something predictable and probably pre-scripted about an “exhaustive, official enquiry” –rehearsed, no doubt, to instil exactly the right amount of dread and compliance. If I try hard enough I can even imagine her practicing it in a mirror beforehand, perfecting the various purses of lips and furrowing of eyebrows. She’s obviously trying to intimidate me and I promptly zone out, because seriously, who cares? They won’t catch you. If you’re still alive, you won’t let them find you unless you want them to – it will all be part of the game. If you are still alive. No, you’re not dead though. You’re not. I have absolutely no objective evidence for assuming this, but I believe it nonetheless. I’d know if you were dead, wouldn’t I? I’d just know.

“You were extremely lucky Mr Graham,” she says; grudgingly, as if I’ve been lucky just to annoy her, as if my good luck is a matter of immense personal dissatisfaction. I am quite impressed, in spite of myself – such meticulously measured venom. Not as good as yours of course, but not bad. Not bad at all. I’d give her a good seven out of ten.

“Someone found you,” she continues. She’s still dwelling on how lucky I am, as if I care. “Pulled you out the water, dressed the wounds on your face and chest…” She trails off, uncertain how to proceed. She doesn’t say that this random good Samaritan was you, but she doesn’t need to, because of course it was. Who else could it have been? When I shut my eyes I’m certain I can even remember it: your hand on the back of my head, cradling my skull, as calm and efficient as always but spiced underneath with an air of carefully controlled desperation, because I’m not responding to you and you’re struggling to locate my pulse. “Breathe, Will”, you said, “Breathe for me, I need you to breathe.” You’re holding the gash in my cheek together with your long fingers, making an airtight channel into my mouth so you can perform CPR. “I need you to live Will,” you were saying, “I need you to live for me.” On second thoughts, perhaps I invented that last part. In fact I almost certainly did. It doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing you would say.

My mind starts to drift, and I imagine what you would do if you were here: how you would take her apart with perfectly constructed little verbal parries and quirks of a single eyebrow. Or, more likely, just literally take her apart, probably with your bare hands. With one bare hand tied behind your back…

She’s staring at me now, with barely concealed distaste. “Did I say something to amuse you Mr Graham?” she snaps.

Her staccato voice jolts me back into the room, like nails down a chalkboard, and I blink at her, disorientated. “I’m sorry, what?” I say stupidly. Behind my eyes, you are smirking at me.

“You’re smiling. I wasn’t aware this was a laughing matter. So – did I say something to amuse you?”

Oh God, why do people ask questions like this? It’s not as if she expects, or even wants, a truthful answer. I briefly wonder what she would do if I said “Yes, actually, you are – enormously so,” or even “Yes, and guess exactly how many fucks I give about that. Count them. Done?

“I wasn’t smiling,” I say instead, “I was grimacing. I’m actually in a considerable amount of pain. Ma’am.”

She stares at me, clearly disbelieving, and not especially impressed with the blatantly piss-taking ‘Ma’am’. She’s not going to pursue it though; she can’t really be bothered. She’s going to let it go, so in return I arrange my face into a suitably earnest expression and give her my full attention. Quid pro quo. Besides, it’s not like it’s really worth imagining what you would do. I never was all that reliable at predicting you, was I? You’d probably be just as likely to take me apart as her.

“Yes, well…” she says. She gathers her purse up in a fussy way and clutches the strap. She’s losing control of this exchange, and she knows it. What she really wants, clearly, is to just tell me to fuck off. The fact that she can’t, and is desperate to, is actually hugely enjoyable.

We stare at each other, sizing each other up. “Thanks for stopping by,” I say finally, dismissing her. It takes my last shred of self-control to not start smiling again.

Her thin, feral face twitches, and she rakes her eyes up and down my body in poorly concealed contempt. We’re not really done here, I know this – I haven’t really won. Fuck it though, I’ll deal with her later. And a fleeting victory is still a victory regardless. Right now I just want to close my eyes and not open them again for a very, very long time.

“Wishing you a speedy recovery Mr Graham,” is all she says (yeah, right), then she stands up, drawing herself to her full height, impressive in her glossy heels, and glowers at me (she really does – there’s no other word for it) before doing a neat little spin on her toes and heading to the door. I achieve my ambition of closing my eyes and just lie there, feeling vaguely martyred. I’m disgusted to realise my hands are trembling again, so ram them under the covers. Beyond the door her heels sound all the way down the corridor in little self-important thrusts, click click click, and I imagine what it would be like to spear her through the heart with one of her own over-priced stilettos. I try to feel shocked at myself afterwards, but can’t quite manage it. “A little vulgar Will, don’t you think?” I hear you say, but I know you’re smiling in spite of yourself.

Some time passes. I don’t know how much. And then there’s noise outside the room and when I hitch open an eye I can see a tall silhouette through the frosted glass. It’s a man, I can tell from the build – broad shoulders, powerfully built. It’s not going to be you, I tell myself, it’s not, oh God…and the door opens all the way, and of course it’s not you. It’s Jack, resplendent in an overcoat and that ludicrous fedora hat, and absolutely beaming awkwardness. In fact he’s practically vibrating with it, rippling off him in waves. His hands are clenched behind his back as if he’s clutching something, and for a surreal/appalling moment I think he’s brought me flowers. He hasn’t of course (thank God), it’s rather that he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. He now unfolds them round to the front of his body and clasps them round his stomach, and then lets them go entirely so they swing at his sides like pendula.

“Well, Will…” he manages finally, and his words run together and trip over themselves in the effort to escape his mouth so it sounds all garbled: Wellwill. I feel my lips twitch again. When did I become so hysterical? I never used to laugh. “So solemn Will,” I remember you once saying. “So serious all the time.”

Jack gives it another go, battling on undeterred. I’ve got to hand it to him. “Hey Will” he says (better), and then after a pause, “You look like hell” (not so much).

“Yeah?” I say, “I just got back.” I don’t really mind though. I do look like hell. At least he doesn’t ask me how I’m feeling when it’s obvious that, by any commonly accepted criteria, I feel like seven shades of shit.

He snorts a bit at that then gingerly draws up the chair (your chair) to the side of the bed. Whatever resources he corralled to get him this far have clearly expired, because he now falls silent again, clasping and unclasping his hands (of course). I stare back at him, suddenly struck equally dumb. I can’t think of a single thing to say to him, and he clearly can’t either, and I start wondering if we’re just going to gaze at each other until the ward closes for the night and a nurse appears to escort him out, magnificent in his stony silence.

Jack looks unhappy, because of course he does, and emits a long rumbling sigh. “How’s that doing?” he says finally, gesturing at his cheek to correspond to where the dressing is on my own. I try to shrug in response then promptly regret it because it sends shivers of pain all over, radiating out from the stab wound in my chest.

“Could’ve been worse”, I manage finally (although probably not much worse). “They don’t think the scar will be too bad.” Not that I really care either way. It’s just another brand, another mark traceable back to you, like your handprints all over my body. A duelling scar: earned in combat.

“You can cover it up anyway with that mangy little beard of yours”, says Jack, and I huff out a laugh, because what else can I do? His awkwardness is now reaching levels of intensity that are positively operatic, and I find myself feeling sorry for him.

“It’s okay Jack,” I say after a pause. “You know none of this is your fault.”

“I know,” he says; and which immediately pisses me off, because I was expecting at least some level of apology. It serves me right, I suppose – I should have known there was no way I’d get the chance to be magnanimous with him.

Jack sighs again, so I sigh too to keep him company. “Hell of a scene you boys left behind”, he finally says. “A total bloody mess.”

I suppose that’s one way of putting it. “Caught you the Tooth Fairy, though, didn’t I?” I reply. There’s another pause. “Um…in a manner of speaking.”

Jack smiles a bit. “Yeah you did.” He pauses as well and when I glance down at his hands I see that of course they’re spiralling and twisting together. In fact his face has grown very serious again, eyebrows furrowing together like corrugated iron. Oh God…I think. Here it comes. “The thing is,” adds Jack finally, “the thing is Will, you also lost us Hannibal Lecter.”

I stare at him for a moment, shocked into genuine silence. I can feel my mouth working uselessly; I must look ridiculous, like a fish gasping for air. I bet you’ve never looked like I do now, have you? Not once in your entire life. “For God’s sake!” I manage finally. “I didn’t lose him. It wasn’t like I forgot to put him in the back of the car and then drove home and was like ‘Oh! Where did Hannibal Lecter go?’” I pull in a deep, raw gasp of air. “I got stabbed and thrown off a cliff.” I pause again: this time I definitely do not add in a manner of speaking.

He’s undeterred by this (of course), splendid in his sense of righteous endeavour. Jack Crawford: once more into the breach. “Will, you know I need to ask you this,” he says. “You know I do. Were you aware he was going to run?” He pauses even longer then gives me a hard stare. “It would hardly be the first time would it?”

For a brief, appalling moment I feel like I might actually cry. “I have absolutely no idea what happened to him,” I finally manage. “I’ve told people this. I made a statement. He went over the cliff when I did. We killed Dolarhyde, he grabbed me…” Careful, I think. “We lost our balance; we went over. He could be dead. He probably is.”

“He could be, and yes, he probably is,” replies Jack. “But then so could you. And you’re not.”

“No,” I say. “I’m not.”

“And we’re all very glad about that,” adds Jack, with truly appalling heartiness. He’s feeling guilty now; he’s backpedalling. Pushed and probed to get a reaction, and is satisfied that my distress is genuine so is prepared to temporarily back off. Job done. Anyway, it really is his fault…sort of. He looks a little happier though, some of the tension leaching out of him. Maybe he doesn’t entirely believe me, but he certainly wants to. He smiles at me again, all avuncular and good-natured: give him a little more time and he’ll possibly work himself up to ruffle my hair and call me buster (oh God, he’s not actually going to…is he?). Not that this display is all, or even mostly about me. It’s principally for his benefit – he needs to put me back in my place, revert me into a tame, fragile being that’s no threat and can be patronised and condescended to. For all his apparent astuteness, he really has no idea about anything.

“Kade speak to you yet?” he says.

I roll my eyes extravagantly in lieu of a response and he barks out another one of those laughs. Surely he should have already known that though, he shouldn’t have to check? They’re all pretty useless really, no one seeming to know what anyone else is doing. No wonder you rang increasingly elegant rings around them for so long.

Jack, like me, seems to have reached his tolerance level for this exchange, and he makes a performance of gathering up his coat and that stupid hat. I wonder if you could get away with a hat like that? Probably you could. Just. Rakish, slightly pulled down towards one eye.

“Take care Will,” say Jack now. He pats me gingerly on the shoulder and I smile back at him, because this is what I am supposed to do. “We’ll speak more later,” he adds, and it’s both a threat and a promise.

After he’s gone I stretch out and close my eyes, enjoying the peace and silence (fucking finally). After a while I open them again, but you’re not there: of course you’re not.

“I don’t know where you are,” I finally say out loud. I hope no one can hear me. I can just imagine the anxious update in my medical file: Will Graham is currently lying in his room, happily talking to himself. But it doesn’t bother me enough to make me stop. It’s not my fault anyway; I shouldn’t have to be talking to myself. I should be talking to you. But I don’t know where you are, I really don’t. You’re nowhere but you could be anywhere – all at the same time.

“Even if I knew where you are I wouldn’t tell them. I wouldn’t let them take you,” I say into the darkness. The ‘because you’re mine’ is unspoken, but if you were sitting in your chair, you’d hear it anyway. You’d know. You always knew.