Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story are the property of Thomas Harris, Bryan Fuller, and their related affiliates. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.

Summary: You can take the man out of the psychiatric hospital, but you can't take the psychiatric hospital out of the man. Will recovers from Baltimore after his release. Post-Savoureux.

Author's Notes: I'm sorry, NBC. I just can't wait until 2014 to see Will's release. Apologies if your willful suspension of disbelief is utterly mangled by my desperate plot device to vindicate him and prove his innocence. My impatience will be the death of me.

"In this decayed hole among the mountains

In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing

Over the tumbled graves"

~T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland" (385-387)

The Wasteland

Chapter One: Inside-Out

They expect him to fight; he doesn't. Thirty-one days into his sentence, convicted on several counts of murder, Will knows better than to fight anymore. Besides, he's had this date coming from the beginning. It has only ever been a matter of time before the men in white coats showed up to take him for a short walk to an electric charge.

Will remembers watching Frankenstein with Dad on television as a boy and reeling from the shock when the lightning hit the monster. He relives that agony now as they invite him to do this the easy way. Empathy doesn't prepare him for things like this. His empathy is all flight response, but there's nowhere to run except straight into their hands.

Barney makes small talk with him as they cuff him. Will wishes he could be angry, but Barney's niceties are about the only thing that makes him feel sane anymore. Barney feeds the only delusion Will has left with his polite smiles, his friendly demeanor, his simple questions. He asks Will how he's doing as if Will has any other answer for him except awful, as if Will has any other life except for the one carefully contained in four stone walls and a basement ceiling.

He reminds Will to stay calm; this will all be over soon. The procedure is pretty much routine. "You won't be conscious for it," Barney adds consolingly. The undercurrent of sadness in his voice is audible even to Will, whose head buzzes already with anxiety. He musters a nod though, just for Barney, wincing as the jagged pieces of his psyche claw against one another from the movement. They'll settle soon. Electricity will fracture them down into granules, melt them back into a perfect sheet of perfect glass. They'll reflect all the crap that Chilton has been telling him: he has committed murder, that he remembers committing murder, that he wants to commit more murders. Will almost laughs at the bitterness of going to a mental institution in order to be driven mad, but they're about to knock him unconscious and electrocute his brain. He's not up for laughing right now.

Lecter – damn him – once said that there were no forts in Will's head for things he loved. At the time, Will believed him, but now, on the long walk to what could be the end of everything, he finds a stronghold of pleasant memories. He feels his father's fingers in his hair, combing tenderly through the curls. Wet fur and soap under his palms; fishing rods and the tug on the line. Water, salt and fresh, still or choppy, because his first memories are of wading, then swimming. There's the thrill of his first kiss, because she was genuinely excited and Will's mind still whirls with the torpor of her joy. It's one of the rare blessings his empathy has ever given him. He meets Alana for the first time, catches her eye the first time, kisses her for the first time, and just because he might never remember this again, Will imagines that they didn't stop. He imagines himself as stable, imagines having a life outside of death. He drops back underwater and lingers below the surface as the door is locked behind him.

The sight of the gurney and IV nauseate Will. His vision blurs and his head spins away from what few pleasant thoughts he still has all the way into his best case scenario. Maybe he'll be too damaged to care anymore. Maybe, when he wakes up, the only emotions he'll feel will be his own. Maybe he won't be aware of his imprisonment anymore. Will's bottom lip quivers at that thought. Damn Chilton. Damn Lecter. Damn Crawford. The first is destroying him for fame; the second is destroying him for fun; and the third is enabling them both by not doing his job.

They release him from restraints and guide him to the open straps on the gurney. Barney is still talking to him, and Will's doing his best to look attentive, but he's not really listening. He's too busy trying to save the parts of himself worth holding onto. There has to be a part of his brain to hide the important memories. Will makes a short list and starts reciting them mentally like a prayer: I am Will Graham, I am not a killer, I am not insane, I cannot trust anyone, least of all Hannibal Lecter.

(Alana, Dad, Winston, water, Abigail, antlers, home, home, home...)

"You can relax, Mister Graham," Chilton's voice cuts through his internal monologue. "This will all be over soon enough."
Will doesn't even dignify that with a response. He wants to: oh, he wants to. But Chilton's got his finger on the trigger, and Will would rather not receive a bigger bullet than necessary. He takes a deep breath. "Let's not waste time then."

"No, let's not do that."

The IV plunges into his vein followed by a cold snake of saline in his arm.

I am Will Graham. I am not a killer. I am not insane. I cannot trust anyone.

(Dad. Alana. Winston. Abigail. Home. Home. Home.)

"Just administering a sedative now," Barney tells him. "You're just going to go to sleep, Will. When you wake up, it'll all be over."

Truer words were never spoken. Will grits his teeth against the sudden burst of heat in his arm and focuses all his energy on I am Will Graham. I am not a killer. I am not insane.

(Dad. Alana...Winston...abigail...home...home...home...)

Will dreams of electricity.

He wakes up sluggish, disoriented. Everyone's face is a blur. The room is a slurry of swirling images and garbled voices. Chilton's pitchy southern drawl jousts with an authoritative baritone and is knocked cleanly off its high horse. Will tries to blink, but his eyelids just end up staying closed, prying open only when a hand gently pats his cheek.

"The sedation should only last a few more minutes."

"Come on, Will...come on...wake up."

One of the side effects of ECT is confusion. Barney told him that before, in his cell. He'll be alright in twenty minutes or so. He just needs to breathe. Just breathe.

"Will," Crawford's voice bears down upon him, heavy and insistent. "Wake up, Will. Come on."

This has to be a hallucination. A misfire. No matter how real it feels ("SOMEONE GET THESE RESTRAINTS AND ELECTRODES OFF OF HIM NOW!"), this is all just some terrible side effect of a terrible procedure. This is the universe taunting him. Will feels sick from how much it hurts. He's going to wake up and have lost everything except the faded dream of an eleventh hour rescue.

"The drugs should be wearing off soon."

The electrodes tug on Will's hair and drag him back to a smeary reality. Crawford's bulk is visible at his right, looming behind some poor orderly who's shaking as he unbuckles the strap on Will's arm. Barney's at his head, tugging electrodes off his brow. Will's jaw is slack and difficult to control, but he has to ask, "Is it now?"

His hands are free. The IV is disconnected, causing his whole forearm to sting. Will tries to speak again, this time concentrating extra hard on not mumbling. "Is it now?" he asks. "Is this real?"

"It's real, Will," Crawford says.

Barney finishes with the electrodes while the other orderlies lift Will's legs out of the ankle restraints on the gurney. It doesn't make much difference: he doesn't have the strength to sit up.

"Leave," Crawford dismisses them.

Will nods to Barney when it's all over. Even if they are hallucinations, he can still be polite.

The room is suddenly very, very quiet. Will slips immediately back into a doze, chemical calm keeping him from worrying about whether this is all a dream. When he opens his eyes again after what feels like seconds, Crawford is still standing at his right, arm braced against the wall, face set in an expression Will doesn't recognize.

Not a dream then. Or maybe Will's delusions are permanent now. He's really not sure, and there's no one he can think to ask. What was he supposed to remember? He is Will Graham. He is not a killer. He is not insane. He cannot trust anyone. Well, at least he recalls that much. The memories of the murder still don't exist. Chilton might actually have to perform some real psychiatry after this fiasco.

Crawford pats his hand against the wall, steadying himself before turning to look at Will. "We made it just in time," he says. "A minute later and..."

Will can't speak, and this time it's not from the lingering effects of the sedation or the muscle relaxant. This could still be a dream. A never ending fantasy. After thirty-one days, that seems like a more likely scenario.

"Abigail Hobbs's body turned up in a field last night," Crawford says, "Mounted on a stag's head."

He has to swallow. His mouth is dry. "Just like the first victim."

"She's covered in DNA, Will," Crawford's expression gets even more downtrodden.

Will has a hard time keeping his bottom lip from quivering now. "This isn't real," he stares at the ceiling, eyelids fluttering as his mind drifts back into orbit around the waking world. "This isn't real. You can't be real."


"Whose DNA?"

"Not yours."

And that's all that really matters in this case. Will's pretty scattered at the moment, but he's beginning to understand what exactly was happening when he woke up. "Am I being released?"

"Not yet," Crawford replies, "but I've got Zeller, Price, and Katz working on a case right now that should see you transferred to a minimum security facility until your case can be overturned."

Will doesn't think a hallucination would abide so closely to the rules of reality. Certainly not in his mind, where stags immolate and are stuck mid-shift into human form.

"I'm so sorry, Will," Crawford says without looking at him. Lost, Will's brain finally supplies the proper adjective for Crawford's expression. He feels the older agent's emotions passing through him now. Crawford's failure overwhelms Will, leaving him reeling and sick again. He hates that Crawford feels guilty, sad, and lost. Crawford hasn't earned the right to feel any of those things.

"I want to go home," Wills says.

He doesn't wait for Crawford to respond before closing his eyes again and shutting out the world.