Killing Hobbs felt good. Horrifying, terrifying—both from the Latin, horrere and terrere, to fear and to cause fear, respectively—but also undeniably good.
After his talk with Hannibal that night, Will goes home and sticks his head in the sink until it feels as though his lungs are going to burst.
He thinks, there is a woman impaled on antlers in a field whose lungs have been removed, whose lungs have been eaten, and he sees her, in that moment, through the water stinging his eyes. He sees her, and he thinks: there are some people in this world who deserve to die.
The next morning, Hannibal shows up on his doorstep with a slice of ham and cheese quiche, and Will is grateful.
They do not talk about Hobbs. Part of being a paddle is knowing when to stay in the boat.
Shooting Stamitz did not feel as good as killing Hobbs did. Nor did it feel as horrifying, as terrifying—because there was no Abigail Hobbs, there was no innocent to be saved.
That is what Will tells himself, because it must be the truth. It cannot be because Stamitz did not die.
It’s weeks later when Hannibal asks, “Would it have been wrong to kill Mr. Stamitz?”
“It’s a moot point,” says Will. “I didn’t. That’s an immutable fact—I let him live.”
“You let him?” Hannibal says, eyes never leaving Will’s face. “You did say even you yourself were not fully aware of your intentions, when you fired your gun.”
“He’s alive,” says Will.
“Yes,” Hannibal replies. “And how does that make you feel?”
It makes Will feel like a coward. But he does not tell Hannibal that. What he tells Hannibal is, “It makes me feel like it’s none of your business, Doctor Lecter, because I am not your patient.”
Hannibal quirks an eyebrow, and, very slowly, he smiles. “No, my good Will,” he says, “you are not.”
There is a killer on the loose who is drawing inspiration from the Bible. Old Testament—a traditionalist. Will has holed himself up in an empty interrogation room, and he has three different translations open, each one less forthcoming than the last. Will sees nothing but the pages that are in front of him. Hannibal keeps coming in with food that Will is not in the mood to eat.
“I’m not hungry,” he says, when Hannibal tuts at him.
“Even the Israelites had manna in the desert,” Hannibal tells him.
“The Israelites were running.” Will turns a page.
“And you are not?”
“The Isrealites were running away,” Will clarifies. “I’m running towards.”
Hannibal sits down, and says nothing.
Minutes later, Will looks up, finds Hannibal’s gaze already fixed on him. He meets his eyes, uncomfortably. “Does that make you God, then?” he asks.
“Your analogy. You giving me food, like God giving the Israelites manna. Isn’t that a little…I don’t know, egotistical?”
Hannibal reaches across the table, pulls the book from Will’s grasp. He leafs through it idly for a moment, and then shuts it. “I suppose,” he says. “But what one of us has never felt the urge to play God, if only for a little while? Take our killer, for instance.”
And, just like that, Will can see it, see more than just what is in front of him. He snatches the Bible back, flips through it quickly, says, “I’ve got it, Hannibal, get me Jack, I need to talk to him right now--”
He looks up, to find Hannibal already gone.
“You are not feeling well?” Hannibal asks, once the case is finished. “You solved it, with an admiral leap in logic. You ought to feel proud.”
Will does not answer, because the answer is this: he could not empathize with this killer, not quite. There was too little—or perhaps too much—to go on, not enough specificity. He could not empathize with this killer, until he connected the killer with Hannibal, in his own mind. That was all it took, and suddenly he understood this killer, this murderer, this monster, perfectly.
All it took was Hannibal.
There are implications to that which Will would rather not ponder.
Instead, he asks Hannibal to make him dinner. As deflection, it works perfectly. As distraction, it works rather less so.
The meal, however, is delicious.
Will shoots someone else. A woman, this time. She doesn’t die, but she doesn’t quite live, either—she’s in a coma, and Katz, ever sensitive, has started a betting pool over whether or not she will wake up. She is a suspected murderer, after all.
Her room is stark, and stifling, but Will sits there anyway, watching her face. Crawford comes and goes, making noises about Will leaving to go and talk to somebody. Eventually, he must give up on getting Will to leave, and so he sends Hannibal to him.
“She looks quite peaceful, doesn’t she?” he asks, after observing her for a quiet moment.
“She shouldn’t be,” says Will. “The police are taking bets over whether she lives or dies.”
Hannibal sits down beside Will on the couch and crosses his legs. “I do hope you would not stoop so low as to participate in such things.”
“I’m not a gambling man,” he says.
“Now, Will,” says Hannibal, “we both know that is not true.” Then, before Will has time to respond, “But that is good. Because now neither of us has any stake in her fate—were we to be betting, that would be unfair.”
Will turns to Hannibal, and just as quickly turns away. “I don’t understand,” he says.
“Don’t pretend to be stupid,” says Hannibal, sliding a needle out from the inside pocket of his suit. “It’s unseemly.” He hands the needle to Will, who takes it, in what he thinks—hopes—is an automatic motion. “Why don’t you give her some peace?”
Will does. Because routine mix-ups like this happen in hospitals all the time. Wrong drugs in the wrong IV, and a woman dies. The odds were against her, anyway, according to Katz.
New evidence surfaces the next week—she may not have been the killer. Neither Will nor Hannibal ever bring it up.
“I’m horrible, aren’t I,” Will says in Hannibal’s office one day, head in his hands. He wishes there were a sink he could stick his head in, but if he went to the bathroom now Hannibal would probably just follow him there.
Will says, “I’m a monster,” a shaking, quiet whisper, and once he’s said it, he knows it’s true.
Hannibal does not answer him; instead he pries Will’s hands away from his face, and brings their faces close together, so their foreheads are touching. Will meets his eyes, happy for the distraction.
They stay like that for either a very long or a very short time. Will doesn’t know which one of them kisses the other first.
“We are all monsters,” Hannibal says, later, and Will believes him.
Will has never liked guns, despite his involvement with the FBI.
“Knives are much cleaner,” Hannibal tells him.
Hannibal also tells him that the first cut is the hardest, but in that, if in nothing else, he is wrong—the first cut is easy. He sees the horror in the girl’s eyes, but it’s nothing he hasn’t seen and felt before.
Hannibal slings a companionable arm across Will’s shoulders when he is finished, mindful of the blood. He is still impeccably neat, even in this.
There is an old story, which says that after death, one’s heart is put on a scale. If the evil inside of it outweighs a feather, the heart is fed to a monster.
Will doesn’t believe that. He knows how much an average human heart weighs, and he knows every single one would outweigh any feather.
He also knows how human hearts taste, these days. He cannot, in good conscience, blame any monster for choosing to eat them.
That would make him something of a hypocrite.