Equilibrium

"Hello, Will."

"Hello, Dr Lecter."

Those are the only words that are said. Superficially, they're civil enough: calm, due mostly to Will's melancholy acceptance of the situation; polite through omission of the things waiting to trip off of Will's tongue - fury and disgust and horror and frustration and a hundred other things he forces back inside his mouth and swallows down, knowing the time to set them free is not now. But a coldness still seeps through, a frost in Will's stony reply to Hannibal that chills the air between them.

That doesn't go unnoticed by the psychiatrist, but rather than making him uneasy, it seems to please him. Will's eyes are fixed unwaveringly on the man he had once believed to be his friend, and something starts to claw at his insides as he notices the way Hannibal's lips curve upwards at the sight of him. It isn't even a smirk. There isn't enough of a taunt in it for that, because that would mean Hannibal actually cares one way or the other about Will's suffering. And this has never been about Will.

All this has ever been to Hannibal is a game. Will isn't a person worthy of care or concern: he's no more than a toy. A brain with cogs that turn differently to most people's, and it was fun for Hannibal to poke and prod them just to see what happened. He liked to set horrific events in motion just to satisfy his own curiosity, and now all the dominoes have fallen, the sum of his manipulation and scheming has brought them here. Will is right where Hannibal wants him.

Stoically, Will stands looking out at the face of the man who framed him. He doesn't even see any mockery in Hannibal's expression. It's just the satisfied smile of someone altogether too pleased with himself.

This is the first time since their confrontation in Hobbs' kitchen that Will has seen Hannibal. The sight before him remains the same as it had been back in Minnesota; the dark truth at last in focus as Will's gaze penetrates the mask of the man standing just yards from him. Only a few narrow bars of steel come between them, bisecting a distance too short to truly be considered safe. It's curious, Will thinks, how there is more air than metal separating him from the man beyond, yet the solidity between the spaces provides enough of a barrier to prevent him from reaching out to Hannibal and ending him, like he had done to Garret Jacob Hobbs, delivering some measure of justice or revenge or whatever it may be for Abigail and for all his other countless victims.

But Will knows his own limitations. Even if he were to stand a little closer, let his hand creep between the bars and his fingers reach out to grasp that slender neck, he knows it would be a futile gesture. No matter how tightly his fist clenched in fury, or how close to the boundary of the cell he stood, he could never reach far enough to take back the freedom and sanity that had been torn from him, or have the strength to drag Hannibal down to rot in here alongside him. If he tried, all Hannibal would have to do is take a single pace back, and then stand at the sidelines and watch as Will fell apart.

Just like he had been doing this whole time.

And so Will doesn't move any further, making no action in his determination not to relinquish the small measure of power or control he has. Nor does he speak, not trusting which of the thoughts battling to make their way to his lips is what he really wants to say. He simply stands with his eyes locked on Hannibal's - the rare eye contact presenting a challenge - who gazes back calmly. The smile isn't there anymore, and instead he's surveying Will with a look of mild curiosity, as if wondering what he might do next. Will declines to respond, but the look in his eyes says more than a thousand impassioned words could should he let them come tumbling out of his mouth.

The silence will be broken in the next few seconds, either by Will's resolve crumbling, or by Hannibal deciding to enact the next move in his meticulously crafted plan. But for now, a motionless quiet stretches between them. They've reached a fragile yet hostile equilibrium, both standing for just a brief moment and watching the other. Will knows what they both see. Hannibal is viewing the fruit of his endeavours, basking in the sight of his favorite pet beaten and caged.

But between the lines of the bars, with the veil of charm and sophistication finally ripped away, Will can see the face of the monster beyond more clearly than any killer he's ever known.