For one brief, wild moment, Hannibal thinks about plunging the scalpel into Will Graham's carotid and watching the life spray out of him.
Will attacked him, he could say. Could make Jack Crawford believe it, though not if he cuts Will's carotid. Would have to be something more subtle.
Will is barely hiding his aggression right now. It wouldn't be entirely a lie to say he attacked.
Hannibal fingers the scalpel, sliding it across the top of the drawing.
He has put too much into Will. Will is too special. He remains dangerous, but not so dangerous in this moment that Hannibal cannot work with him.
Hannibal lets go of the scalpel and stands.
"Now you know the truth."
"Do I?" Will asks with that smile that says he thinks the whole world is lying to him.
"Everything you know about that night is true except the end. Nicholas Boyle attacked us. Abigail's only crime was to defend herself and I lied about it."
"Why?" Will asks. With such intensity. The idea that Abigail killed someone hurts him, but what hurts him most is that he was lied to.
Hannibal sniffs, hand on his hip, "You know why."
Will turns his back, trying to process the truth and his myriad confused feelings and impulses.
"Because Jack Crawford would hang her for what her father's done," Hannibal elaborates.
He and Will must be on the same page about Abigail. There can be no room for error.
"And the world would burn Abigail in his place. That would be the story. That would be what Freddie Lounds writes."
Will nods. Understands. He approaches the window contemplatively. Perhaps projecting: imagining himself in the house in Minnesota as Abigail. Certainly conflicted by thinking of Abigail as a killer. But realizing that she had to do what she did. And feeling betrayed by them both for not including him.
"Abigail is no more a killer than you are for shooting her father – or I am for the death of Tobias Budge," Hannibal points out, crossing the room to stand near Will.
"It isn't our place to decide," Will says adamantly.
Oh, so that's it. Will and his conventional morality. He's had enough time to process his projection of events; morality has caught up with his lightening-quick associations. Then on morality's grounds Hannibal will fight.
"If not ours, then whose?" Hannibal asks just as adamantly.
Appealing to Will's sense of duty to Abigail, his strong association with Hobbs, his need to be a good parent, a protective father, so unlike the father he had. The only way to win this disagreement.
"Who knows Abigail better than you and I? All the burden she bears."
Yes. Will cannot resist this line of argument for long. Though perhaps he needs it more paternal terms.
"We are her fathers now. We have to serve her better than Garrett Jacob Hobbs."
Will still stares. That learned value of decency holds him more strongly than Hannibal suspected. He has more work to do with Will. Much more work.
"If you go to Jack, you murder Abigail's future."
For a moment, Hannibal wonders whether Will is aware of his reality, so intently does Will stare out the window.
And so Hannibal is blunt to ascertain Will's level of awareness.
"Do I need to call my lawyer, Will?"
At length, slowly drawn out of the state of shock this revelation has placed him in, Will shakes his head. Hannibal sees awareness in his eyes. He's just present enough for Hannibal to accept his answer.
"We can tell no one," Hannibal says. Their terms must be clear.
Will turns back to the window, still deeply troubled. Shocked by his associations and their assault on his decency. Shocked that he was lied to. Shocked that Abigail killed.
He needs assurance that what he's done is right. So bound up with conventional morality, he needs to feel good about his choices. He must see that their duty to Abigail outweighs cultural notions of justice.
Hannibal takes the few steps needed to close the distance between them and places his hand on Will's shoulder, squeezing reassuringly.
"What we are doing here is the right thing," he says, telling Will how intently he believes it by tightening his squeeze. "In time, this will be the only story any of us cares to tell."
He gives Will's shoulder a final squeeze and walks to the liquor cabinet to pour them both two fingers of whiskey. Will's preferred brand.
Will stays at the window long enough for Hannibal to build a small fire in the fireplace. Will is reliving many things tonight. Parsing his associations with decency and obligation; adjusting to the duty to Abigail he must put first. Trying to make sense of his now-scrambled moral hierarchy and the terrible thoughts of Abigail killing and lying to him.
Either that or he's dissociating. Hannibal has to admit he would be very excited to see Will dissociate. He hasn't published in a while. Will presents such a fascinating case. With phone calls to the right people, he could get something in a top journal within a year.
Hannibal glances to the second floor, picturing the many journals he's kept on Will. Hours of notes. Written in his own shorthand and hence indecipherable unless a person put considerable time into it. Yes, if this is Will dissociating, he'll be up for hours tonight writing. Of course, he'll be up late regardless, recording Will's revelation and his wrestling match with social mores and personal duty.
All because he saw the body of Nicholas Boyle. Even with more than three months in the ground – albeit frozen ground – the body showed Will everything his keen mind needed to see.
And so he knows not just that Abigail killed Nick Boyle but that she butchered him. He will know on some level, just as she knows on some level, that she did more with her father than anyone but Jack Crawford believes.
Jack Crawford. There's a man Hannibal is glad not to see tonight. And who will drop by soon if Will's symptoms continue to worsen. Jack's always been worried about his best pony. Even as he destroys Will, he worries. Hannibal thought the arm of Miriam Lass would be a cattle prod to Jack's guilt, but he's let Will go on far longer than Hannibal suspected he would. He thinks he needs Will. He thinks Will is adjusting to the repeated assault of looking.
Yes, he will come to the office soon and sit in front of this fireplace and talk about Will and his own guilt. And maybe then he will act. Or maybe Will's illness will force his hand.
As the fire begins to crack and roar, Hannibal hears Will's scuffling footsteps approach. He's exhausted. More emotionally than physically. He will retreat to his refuge tonight. He must. Solitude salves Will Graham in a way Hannibal can't. Moreover, Hannibal would like his privacy back.
Hannibal sits on his haunches in front of the fire as he hears Will settle into a chair and finger the rim of the glass. Hannibal counts to ten, stands, and backs away from the fire and into his chair.
Hannibal studies him surreptitiously as they both sip the whiskey.
"Why did you think you couldn't tell me?" Will asks, his voice rough with the burden of knowledge. "All this time. You were in Jack's office when he said he wanted Abigail to look at the body. How could you do that to her?"
Hannibal takes a breath. "She did it to herself."
Will's eyes flash. "Wh – "
Hannibal holds a hand up to stop Will's interruption.
"She went back to Minnesota and dug him up. It was her choice." Hannibal sips the whiskey. "She feared his being found and wanted to take control over her fear."
Will's eyebrows jump disbelievingly. "She said this to you."
"Yesterday. After the body was found. I visited her."
"As to why I couldn't tell you…" Hannibal pauses. Will keeps his eyes on the flames but Hannibal knows he has Will's full attention. "How do you think it would have gone in Jack's office if you'd known?"
Will stares at the flames, looks down at his drink, and sighs. Nods. Sees the wisdom in Hannibal's decision.
"Anything else I should know about?" he asks stiffly.
"No," Hannibal replies.
Five minutes pass in silence as they finish their drinks. Will stands, steadily enough, and goes to collect his jacket. He doesn't look at Hannibal.
Hannibal sees him out, wishing him a good night, and returns to his drawing. The fire warms his back as he places an index finger on the scalpel.
Winston whines and licks Will's hand.
That's what brings him back.
Fear bursts inside Will.
Home dogs cold naked.
In a panicked breath he sees that he's in his house, the lights are on, the dogs are near, and he's standing in his underwear in the middle of the living room.
Winston licks his hand again. He pats Winston's nose first, then his head, not taking his eyes from the room as he scans it for any sign of – anything.
He remembers leaving Hannibal's office. Walking out the door. Past the point in the parking lot he never wants to see.
Then Winston licking his hand.
Dissociative amnesia brought on by a traumatic experience.
God. Not again.
Will clenches his jaw against the terror threatening to overwhelm him.
Anything could have happened. Anything.
He shakes. He's shaking. He should, he thinks, be shaking, be cold, be terrified. He could have done anything.
Will checks his hands, frantically turning them over, examining them for evidence. Clean palms. Clean backs. Clean fingernails. Nothing.
Feet. Also clean. Still in his socks.
He sees that he took off his clothes and did what he usually does with them: hang them up if they can be worn again or, more likely, toss them in the hamper.
The dogs are calm, too. Four curled up in bed, two on their feet but yawning, Winston at his side.
It's so unnoticeable even the dogs don't register it?
Will glances at the bowls near the door. Full of water. Empty of food.
So he fed them. He came home from Baltimore, fed the dogs, and took his clothes off.
Getting ready to go to bed.
Then what? Winston nosed him? Licked his hand? Brought him back to reality?
Before he can take a step in any direction, memories flood his vision –
Abigail stabbing him, he's Nicholas Boyle, sharp pain of the knife in his gut, sharp pain of realization, she killed someone
Can't breathe. Can't think.
Abigail killed someone oh god let it not be true let me be wrong for once let it not be can't be she wouldn't couldn't didn't
Not just killed him but butchered him. Gutted him.
Hannibal's office place of safety sanctuary refuge can say anything can think anything Hannibal won't judge won't leave won't run won't betray
"I was hoping it wasn't true."
Rage, totality of rage, wanting to tear at Hannibal for being so calm, his impassive face, how can he not feel something
His face adamant, insistent. Must protect Abigail
Not our place to decide
Must protect her
"I'm going to be messed up, aren't I?"
She's no more guilty than you are for Hobbs or I am for Budge must protect her the world would burn her for what her father did we're her fathers now Will we must serve her better
"I'm worried about nightmares."
"We'll help you with the nightmares."
Can't stop his own nightmares, can't stop them from becoming hallucinations, taking his reality from him
"I know who I am."
Stag melting to tar
"We must serve her better than Garrett Jacob Hobbs"
Slashing Abigail's throat
Hobbs' eyes his knowing expression as life leaves
Holding Abigail's neck blood spurting through his fingers life leaving her lying bleeding
"Killing somebody, even if you have to do it – it feels that bad?"
"It's the ugliest thing in the world."
Lying. Lying to Abigail. A half truth still a lie. Panic fear revulsion horrible horrible guilt gnawing crunching consuming 'til there's nothing left that he recognizes as himself
"I tried so hard to know Garrett Jacob Hobbs. To see him. I got so close to him"
"Sometimes, I felt like we were doing the same things at different times of day, like I was eating or showering or sleeping at the same time he was."
"Even after he was dead?"
"Even after he was dead."
"Like you were becoming him?"
Becoming him god no but yes it's true becoming Garrett Jacob Hobbs
Holding Abigail tight, whispering that he'll make it all go away, slashing, blood spray, life leaving her, lying bleeding
The ugliest thing in the world, true, so true
But what he didn't tell her
Exhilaration thrill titillation control power absolute power intoxicating power elation elation power running through him like the best adrenaline rush better than any other feeling so strong and true and good to kill
Disgust fear revulsion guilt
No, no, no, not this, not these thoughts, not again
Shaking, stumbling, unraveling, Will backs away from his own thoughts until the bed catches his knees and he falls onto his back. No ceiling in front of his eyes, though, just memories thoughts feelings oppressive like being smothered –
Guilt smothered by guilt
Guilty not possible to expel all the guilt deserves the guilt should suffer it every moment of every day for his failures for everyone one of them he couldn't save for everyone he kills in his mind
"How did you feel seeing Marissa Shuur impaled in his antler room?"
"Because you couldn't save her?"
"Because I felt like I killed her."
Madness spills over as he stabs the night nurse at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in the chest, picks her up against the supply rack so they're face to face, smells her fear, her desperation, her panic, searches her eyes: terror, shoves her to the floor, calmly straddles her, holds her head still and shushes her, sweating, thrilled by the promise of violence, pushes into her forehead with his thumbs, slides his thumbs down slowly over the eye sockets and into the eyes, yielding balls of flesh, gouges deeply, pleasure of violence, pleasure of her terror and pain, exhilaration power control rippling through him, selects part of an IV stand, strong metal, as she crawls away, stands in front of her, her hands grasping his ankle, climbing his leg, begging silently for mercy, power and strength and pleasure and thrill as he lifts the slender rod and stabs her through the left kidney, pained hands grab his leg then let go, doesn't scream, sobs instead, fearful pained breaths driving him on, power strength control
"I'm worried about you, Will. You empathize so completely with the killers Jack Crawford has your mind wrapped around that you lose yourself to them."
Holding Abigail tightly, saying he'll make it all go away, slashing her neck with the knife, bright spray of life
I got so close to him.
Gouging eyes, powerful exhilaration of pressing thumbs into eye sockets, feeling hot blood pulse over and out, his hands wet and sticky, shock of pleasure
Stabbing Joel Summers in the heart, angling up to kill him quickly on the snowy beach, finish his life's work, show everyone who he is, everyone will know
Thrill of driving Hobbs back with bullets, thrill of slashing Abigail's throat, thrill of gouging eyeballs, intensity of power
Guilty secret. Guilty pleasure.
Like you were becoming him?
No no no no no no
Will gasps and presses both hands to his face – face wet with sweat or tears or both, can't tell, doesn't want to know.
Warmth beside him. Smell of Winston.
Will swallows around the thick swell of memory and emotion. He turns his face into Winston's coat, mumbling to Winston that he isn't supposed to be on the bed, not when he needs a bath as badly as he does. But Will needs more to have the hard bone and strong muscle underneath Winston's silky fur stabilize him. He presses his forehead against Winston's leg and shivers.
Shivering shaking slashing Abigail's throat gouging eyes intensity of power
Winston yawns. Hint of a whine at the end. A calming signal both to himself and the shaking human next to him.
"Sorry," Will mumbles into his fur. He reaches up to pat Winston on the back, assure Winston that everything is okay even as both of them know he's lying.
Lying bleeding panting scared guilty
Powerful thrilled controlling
Gutting Nick Boyle
Punching Tobias Budge in the throat throat
Pulling the trigger again and again and again
Driving Hobbs back killing him killing him feeling the power of killing him
Standing next to the rental car watching the body bag come out on a gurney knowing Hobbs is in there, dead, killed, good, right, just
"Did you really feel so bad because killing him felt so good?"
"I liked killing Hobbs."
"Killing must feel good to God, too. He does it all the time. And are we not created in His image?"
Abigail must have felt powerful, too, for all that she was appalled. Her terrified eyes glance from the knife in Will's gut to Will's eyes, afraid of what she's done.
"Just because you killed my dad doesn't mean you get to be him."
It'll all go away, he murmurs lovingly into her ear, holding her tightly so she won't struggle
Slashes her throat
He's doing this because he loves her
Would do so much for her. Would do anything.
We are her fathers now. We must serve her better. We can tell no one. What we are doing here is the right thing.
He advances on Hannibal swinging strings he meant to use as a garrote catching Hannibal's arm below the wrist, pulling him forward, swift kick to the abdomen, driving him back, Hannibal coming toward him with blows he barely feels, grabbing the letter opener and stabbing deep into Hannibal's thigh, kicking him repeatedly in the abdomen, the mouth, the nose, feeling none of the return blows, focused on one thing only
Killing must feel good to God.
Kicking, grabbing, wrestling, anything to gain the upper hand, anything to kill
Anything to pin him and gouge his eyes and feel his hot blood pouring out onto powerful murderous hands
Will rockets off the bed, propelled by the force of his own terror, trips dizzily across the room, stumbles and falls onto all fours, chest heaving with terror.
For a moment, he thinks he's going to vomit up all the guilt and fear and disgust. He coughs and gags, still seeing his thumbs gouge Hannibal's eyes out.
Needs to bring up something. Can't just retch emptily.
But there's nothing in him to come up.
Heaves wrack his body, make him wish he could expel memories and guilt and pain and fear. Everything that tears him up inside.
But nothing comes.
Eventually, it passes. His vision clears. Familiar hardwood floor swims in front of him.
No pool of blood. No gouged eye sockets. No stain of guilt.
Will falls onto his side, panting, feeling not cleansed or purged but dirtier than before. He coughs. Wants to spit but doesn't.
Ella, Winston, George – all of them surround him, some sniffing, someone whining, all dancing anxiously, their claws clicking on the floor, feeling his distress, wanting to help.
Will puts a hand out blindly and rubs the first dog he touches.
Ella. Coarse fur, warm body.
Shaking. She's shaking. Ella's shaking.
"No, no, no," he says, pushing himself up until he's sitting.
He pulls her onto his crossed legs and pets her head, behind her ears, along her back. Her tiny paws dig into his bare flesh.
"It's okay," he says, holding her and rocking them both back and forth, "it's okay."
Her curled tail doesn't wag. She sniffs. Shakes her head. Yawns.
The mirrors in your mind can reflect the best of yourself, not the worst of someone else.
Hannibal, whole and unharmed, rises in his mind, reflected by the mirrors. Steady. Rock. Paddle. Anchor.
Relying too much on Hannibal. Burdening him with too much.
Anger flashes. Hannibal lied to him.
How do you think it would have gone in Jack's office if you'd known?
Ella senses anger and squirms out of his grasp. Will presses elbows into knees and cradles his head, pain booming between his ears.
He gets to his feet with a groan and wanders to his corduroys. Digs out aspirin. Shakes two into his palm and swallows them quickly. He drops the pants in a heap of fabric on the floor and wanders to the kitchen and the bottle of George T. Stagg, smirking not the first time at the irony of the name.
Will pours himself two fingers and sits at the kitchen table, eyeing the amber liquid.
He's tempted tonight. He needs respite. At the very least, he needs distance.
This is distance.
Will swallows the whiskey but doesn't pour a second glass. Not yet. Moderation. See how this glass affects him first.
Will laughs a little to himself. Dad never met a beer or a bottle of whiskey he didn't like. How much that used to bother him. How little it bothers him now. How remote it seems, like the winking lights of a ship off the coast in the dark. Unthreatening.
Because what does it matter if he drinks? He's dissociating, hallucinating, sleepwalking, and most of the time his head feels like it's going to split open. He just imagined himself killing Hannibal. The person most important to him in his life. Alcoholism pales in comparison to the fucked up things going on in his head.
No. This – whatever this is, this is going to get him first.
So why not have another drink?
Two more fingers, measured out. Will caps the bottle and sets it aside. He turns the glass, looking into the amber.
Hannibal and Abigail lied to him. They had to lie. He acknowledges that. Hannibal could call 911 when he killed in self-defense. Abigail couldn't. Not without being put on trial for her father's crimes. Jack wouldn't hear of anything else if he knew.
So of course he can't know.
And then there's Abigail. Who had to defend herself. Who was attacked by Nicholas Boyle, the same boy who tried to attack both Abigail and Marissa Shuur. Who wanted revenge for his sister Cassie. Who had every reason to want to hurt Abigail.
The knife. Where did she get the knife? Why did she have a hunting knife in her hands?
Anywhere in that house she could have gotten a hunting knife. The detail isn't odd.
It hardly matters. She had to kill.
Couldn't injure. The world would burn her for that, too.
Did she know she had to kill him?
Did she repress the act at any point?
Hannibal said she went to Minnesota and dug him up.
Must have known it. Must have lied to him the entire time.
Killing somebody, even if you have to do it – it feels that bad?
Did she know then? Is Jack right about her manipulating him?
No, no, no. Jack's wrong. She didn't help her father. She had to defend herself. She had to lie about it.
And Hannibal's right. Will wouldn't have been able to keep it off his face. Jack would have found out.
That can't happen. He has to protect Abigail. Surrogate or otherwise, she's their daughter. They're the only family she has. Only the two of them know what's happening with him, too. Only Hannibal, really, but Abigail understands him very well.
And he understands her. Even better now. The thing she had to do.
Will absently rubs his stomach where Abigail stabbed him. He closes his eyes and rubs at the ache behind them. A hallucination was helpful for once. Well, if he's going to have them, they may as well help him out.
If he's going to have them. He needs a brain scan. Hannibal may be right that it's stress from work but that's no reason to rule out other causes. Will makes a note to bring it up again. Maybe tomorrow.
Tomorrow. When they have dinner arranged with Abigail and Freddie Lounds.
Will drinks the whiskey in one swallow.
He feels it warm his blood. Feels the haze start to come over him. On a good night, he can get to sleep like this.
He runs his finger along the lip of the glass, catching stray molecules of alcohol. Tonight is not a good night.
Winston noses his hand. Will smiles crookedly at him and ruffles the fur under his ears. This is all he really needs. Just this.
Tomorrow, they'll go outside and play together until he's too tired to keep up with them.
Dogs keep a promise a person can't.
Every reason to keep dogs, Will thinks, as he pours another two fingers. These will be his last. He isn't his father. Isn't some goddamn drunk.
A drunk is just as unstable as a man hallucinating. Will glances through watery eyes at the living room. At the spot where he kissed her. Where she kissed back.
He gulps down the whiskey.
He gives himself a moment, then stands and stumbles and laughs. Stupid fucking drunk.
Just be drunk enough to sleep, he thinks as he works his way through the house, turning off the lights and locking the door. Drunk enough not to dream for a while.
Will slides into bed loose-limbed and clumsy, only half-covered by the blanket.
He stares at the ceiling, his head spinning, for an amount of time he can't measure.
Everything is quiet in his house. Everyone's settled down. No noises from outside. Just the faint hum of the refrigerator and the occasional snuffle or shift of one of the dogs.
Nothing is quiet in his head.
He thinks about trees this time. Cypress trees. Covered in Spanish moss.
But the scene is too depressing.
He shifts instead to the Blue Ridge. Oaks, hickories, poplars, maples. Fine tall trees.
Whiskey calms him. He breathes evenly.
But doesn't sleep.
A questioning snuffle comes from his right. Winston.
Always so perceptive.
Will sighs. "Okay. Come on."
He pats the bed and the mattress dips as Winston hops up. Winston curls close and Will puts an arm around him. This is all he needs. This is clarity. This is distance. At length, the calming warmth of Winston's body lowers Will into sleep.
When Will thrashes awake two hours later, Winston is gone.