Having FBI agents in and around his home wasn’t so much a comfort as he thought it’d be.
Next to a frazzled, hungover Molly, Will sat on the couch and watched Jack pace, his heartbeat keeping time with Jack’s fingers that tapped against his pant leg.
“We can escort her home-”
“I’m not leaving Will,” she said fiercely. Clad in Will’s pajama bottoms and a spare t-shirt, she was a force to be reckoned with. Her arm was looped through Will’s, and she’d tossed her hair up into a messy bun on her head to keep it out of her face as she glared at Jack. “This is a bad situation to be in, and I’m not leaving him to go through it alone.”
“If Hannibal Lecter-”
“There are four agents just outside of the apartment and two inside, Agent Crawford. I think we’ll be alright.”
Her protective instinct was soothing, if Will was being honest. There was something calming in the way she traced idle doodles into the soft spot of his wrist, just over his pulse. He didn’t deserve someone like Molly, but there she was. Even hungover, she was placing his needs and problems over her own. He was pretty sure she had an online test to take.
“Will,” Jack said wearily. Molly had been stubbornly resisting him for the better part of the last ten minutes.
“If she wants to stay, I’m alright with it. I have a roommate, too, named Beverly Katz. You can’t keep them all out,” said Will with a shrug.
Jack looked half a breath away from a slew of filthy curses, but as his mouth opened to vehemently object, his eyes traced over Molly’s arm looped through Will’s protectively, how she leaned into him and how he leaned back.
“I’ll… let Agent Dolarhyde know,” he said, and his shoulders slumped in defeat at Will’s acquiescence.
“How did he get out, Agent Crawford?” Will prompted when he said nothing more.
Jack suddenly looked ten years older. Subconsciously, his hands passed over his stomach where a lopsided, unhappy smile resided, raised and discolored beneath his crisp button-up shirt.
“He complained of stomach pains, and he was taken to the infirmary to have tests done. God knows why, and I’m going to be questioning Chilton about this once I leave here, but security was lax. They stepped out to take a smoke break, and when they came back in, they were ambushed.
“I don’t know he paid these people off, but one nurse loosened his straps. When the other nurse turned, Lecter got a hold of her.” Jack let out a world-weary sigh, and he placed his hands on his hips. “They managed to save one of her eyes, but the other is gone, and so is her tongue.”
“Oh my god,” Molly whispered.
“Two guards entered the room, and seeing the scene in front of them, one rushed to subdue Lecter. The other shot his partner in the back of the head. Lecter was strapped into a wheelchair and wheeled out through the back where two visitors had a van waiting. They loaded him into the van and had pulled away by the time another nurse entered the infirmary.”
“How long did it take?”
“Under five minutes,” Jack replied.
Will nodded, accepting that information. Dr. Lecter had always been meticulous, down to the second-hand on his watch during sessions. He never hovered over it, watching the time tick away, but he always knew the exact moment that it was time to begin their session, and without ever having to look, knew the moment that it ended. Time in a prison cell would ensure that he wouldn’t waste a single second in getting out.
“What makes you think he’s coming for me?” he asked. “Did he say something?”
“I have agents and local police officers going to check on all of his patients that still live in the general vicinity,” he assured Will. “Where you were one of the main testimonies during his trial, though, I’m not taking any chances.”
He stepped out of the room when someone called his name, and Will slumped back into the couch, squelching down the bubble of laughter that crawled up his throat. It was a hysterical sort of laugh, one he didn’t want to frighten Molly with.
“You were the main testimony in his case?” she asked. Her hold on his wrist tightened, then relaxed.
“Just one of them,” he said quickly. “…It’s because I found Jack in his office, and I knew personal details about his life that he’d shared. There weren’t many testimonies because they caught him with forensics and sheer, dumb luck, so mine just…stood out. It was more of an emotional testimony to present the kid that was stuck finding an FBI agent bleeding to death in Hannibal Lecter’s office.” He gestured with his free hand and stared morosely at the television. He didn’t want to turn it on and see the news panicking about Lecter. He didn’t want to take what little shred of self-control that he felt like he had and toss it out the window.
“That must have been horrifying,” she murmured.
“You don’t have to stay, Molly,” he said. He tracked her hand as it slid down, fingers interlacing with his and squeezing tight.
“I’m not leaving you like this,” she snapped. “Alone with no one but Jack Crawford to keep you company. He stresses you out, even I can see that.”
“He sometimes can,” Will agreed.
“You stress him out, too.”
“I think that there are some memories he’d probably like to forget.” Things like being stabbed and all. “Every time he sees me, he’s forced to remember. Those are things I’d like to forget, too.”
Jack returned with a man that exuded calm, quiet confidence. Despite being dressed in a suit similar to Jack’s, he wore it with a sense of purpose that made his shoulders straighter and his back stiffer. His dark blonde hair was close-cropped, his jaw square, and apart from the faint scars reminiscent of a cleft palate, he was relatively attractive. Matching brown eyes rested heavily upon Will with an intensity that made the back of his neck prickle.
“Will, this is Agent Francis Dolarhyde. He’s the head of your security detail, and he’s going to make sure that everything is alright until we can get this situation under control,” Jack said.
Will stood up to shake his hand because he felt like it was proper to. There was a hesitation, then after a beat Francis followed suit, shaking his hand with a firm, steady grip. Will could feel callouses from hard work and ease around weaponry, a slight comfort in case of violence to come.
God, he hoped that no violence would come.
“We’re going to keep you safe, Mr. Graham,” he said. He spoke slowly, mouth fumbling over the ‘S’ with a painful attention. “Nothing will happen to you.”
“Thank you, Agent Dolarhyde,” Will replied. He couldn’t look at his face for very long, disquieted as he was by the intensity. He could feel utmost sincerity rippling from his skin, a hungry desire to do his job with no mistakes. Underneath Will’s skin, the responding emotion curling out from him chafed.
“I’ll have four men patrolling the area outside, one by the door, and I’ll remain here,” he continued when Will sat down once more. “Try to pretend I’m not here.”
“Okay.” He bit the inside of his mouth hard enough to draw blood and tried again. “Thank you,” he said to the both of them.
“I’m going to be heading to the crime scene to get a head start on the manhunt, Will. If you need anything, just let Agent Dolarhyde know.”
The look he gave Will said more than words could. Will blinked, and he was kneeling before him, trying to hold his intestines in. He blinked again, and Molly was back to drawing soothing designs against his clammy skin.
“Thank you, Agent Crawford,” he managed to say.
It was going to be a long day.
He tried to watch the television, but he couldn’t concentrate on it. He tried reading, pacing, and playing cards with Molly, but thoughts slid away like rain down a windowpane, collecting at the bottom of his mind to turn stale and muddled. Try as he might, he couldn’t focus on anything in front of him. Every creak of Agent Dolarhyde’s shoes on a faulty spot in the carpet made his muscles clench, and every breath that huffed from him sat in the air and made everything sour.
When Beverly got home, Will had to visually confirm that it was her before they’d let her come in. She broke through the defensive stance of two agents at the door, and she dropped her backpack in order to properly give Will a spine-stiffening hug, her arms tight and her mouth pursed.
“Leave it to me to finally bring Saul here for you to meet, and this happens,” she groused, pulling back to look Will over critically.
“Saul is here?”
“You were complaining that you hadn’t met him, and I thought that now was as good a time as any.” She glanced to the agents standing in the doorway, then looked over Will’s shoulder where Dolarhyde waited near the kitchen. “Will they let him in, or…?”
Will looked back to Francis. “Can her boyfriend come inside?”
The look that Agent Dolarhyde gave Beverly could have melted butter. He mulled the question over with a dark, foreboding expression verging on almost hostile, before he came to a decision and gave a slow, even nod.
“Bring him up.”
Saul was a wiry, red headed mess with one bright green eye and one black like Beverly’s. Unlike Will, whose discomfort gave way to monosyllabic words and internalizing, he spent the better half of the afternoon commenting on just how ‘wild’ all of this was. It was bad enough that even Beverly had to kindly ask him to shut up, and by then Will had made his escape to the kitchen where he feigned hunger and hid behind a tall glass of Jack and Coke.
“Sorry,” Beverly apologized, leaning against the counter. Will took a long sip of his drink and shrugged, his smile nothing more than an awkward grimace. In the living room, Molly made awkward conversation and tried to keep an eye on the news for any new information.
“He’s charming and honest,” he said.
“Charming? Telling lies to make me feel better?” She snickered and made herself a drink as well, much more Jack than Coke. “I don’t need you to tell me what you think right now. I wouldn’t put you in that position.”
“Does he make you happy, Beverly?” he asked. She studied her glass with far more intensity than was necessary, turning it about before she turned her back on Will in order to add ice to it.
“I didn’t think I’d be happy with a soulmate,” she said. With her back to him, the words were hard to catch, and he moved closer. “When I met him, I…was so angry. He wasn’t angry, but I was, and he could feel it. He tried.”
“Five years now and you’re still together,” he noted. “He must be doing something right.”
“Five years now and I think he makes me happy, yeah,” Beverly replied. She closed the freezer and looked at him, taking a sip of her drink. “Do you ever think about yours? What it’d be like to have one?”
“…I don’t think I’d be a good soulmate. I can hardly maintain a normal relationship with Molly, and we’re not soulmates.”
“Maybe it’d be easier with one than to try and have a relationship without.” She wrinkled her nose lightly. “Especially since you usually just end up turning her into some kind of booty call.”
“She came into my room last night,” he protested.
“Had you messaged her, first?”
“No,” he snapped. At her shit-eating grin, he added, “I even told her we weren’t good together.”
“If you still had sex with her, though, that makes your point null and void, to be honest.”
Beverly was right, but he didn’t always like it. They eyed one another over their drinks before her pleased, shit-eating grin placated him, and he sighed, looking up at the ceiling.
“I’m sorry about this,” he murmured. “I’d have liked to meet Saul when he had a chance to be…”
“Less cringy?” she offered.
“He’s pretty cringy,” he agreed, and they both laughed, time kept staggered by the occasional clinking of the ice inside of Beverly’s glass.
He was woken in the middle of the night by Agent Dolarhyde. It didn’t take much; Will’s dreams were such that he slept in a mostly semi-conscious state where there was awareness about him, even as he dreamt of Lecter taking a linoleum knife to his skin just to see what the muscle looked like underneath.
His hand touched Will’s shoulder, and he instantly sat up, concern a knot that twisted inside of him, ugly and cloying. The side of the bed that Molly had been sleeping on was cold, the sheets twisted up in a pile.
“We need to go,” Agent Dolarhyde said, and as Will stretched, he let go of him and stepped away, tucking his hands behind his back.
“What’s happened? Where’s Molly?” His voice dropped to a whisper, an odd sensation of the air around him pressing until it felt too heavy push through.
“Molly is okay. I need you to get your bag and come with me.”
His urgency shook through the fog, and Will twisted out of bed to follow his lead. When he went to grab the light, though, Francis stilled his hand, and the dark shape of his head shook slowly.
“No light, Mr. Graham,” he said quietly.
“Beverly is okay, too.”
“Mr. Graham,” he interrupted, tone firm, “there is no time. We need to go. I will keep you safe.”
His mouth fumbled with the ‘S’, uncertain of it. Will thought of the way he’d stared at him before, as they shook hands and considered one another. Focused was a good word for it, as well as desperate –that sat just underneath, lurking within his awkward speech. He was desperate to keep Will safe.
“You’ll tell me on the way?” he asked, shuffling through the dark to grab his bag.
When they left the room, the hallway reeked of wet pennies. Dolarhyde kept them pressed tight to the wall, shuffling down it with Will just behind him. When an odd noise tried to escape from Will’s lips, he pressed a fist to his mouth to silence it. His tongue sat heavy, and spit pooled just beneath it at the taste in the air. The urge to gag was strong.
The smell grew in the living room, although in the darkness Will had to depend upon Agent Dolarhyde to lead him through whatever had happened while he’d slept. When his shoe slipped into a particularly spongy part of the carpet, he cringed closer to the man and shuddered. Blood. He’d just stepped in blood.
Once outside, he gulped in the cool night air and scrambled after Francis, grip tight on his overnight bag.
“What about Winston?” he asked, voice grating.
“He will be okay.”
“I want to take Winston,” Will protested.
“I will get him if I can, Mr. Graham.”
Will thought about running back for him, but when they hit the bottom steps, Francis’ hand slid to the dip of his shoulders and urged him forward to one of the SUV’s. The sound of shouts carried across the parking lot, and shots rang out, muted, odd things that spit at the pavement around them. His gait shifted from a harried walk to a run, heart stuttering.
“Get in and put your head down,” Francis urged him, and he shoved him towards the car as he whipped around and returned fire.
Heart pounding, eyesight narrowed with the fear that stepped on his shoulders, Will dropped to a crouch and skirted around the car. It took far too long for him to realize that the wheezing, rattling noise was his breathing, and when another bullet ricocheted just beside his feet, he jumped and climbed into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him.
“What the hell is going on?”
A hand touched the back of his shoulder, and he jumped.
“I’m here Will,” Molly whispered to him. Her voice quavered with mortal terror.
“This doesn’t look good,” Saul commented. If his voice hadn’t sounded so strained, it’d have almost been funny.
Seconds passed like hours before Dolarhyde climbed in and started the car, pulling out of the parking lot with a steady grip on the wheel. As they took a corner, he turned the lights on, the reflection from streetlights bathing his calm expression with streaks of reds, yellows, and oranges from passing signs. He made no mention of the gunshots in the parking lot.
“Buckle up, Mr. Graham,” he prompted in that same strange, calming voice.
Will managed to buckle himself with only the most minimal of trouble, his hands shaking.
“What the fuck just happened, Agent Dolarhyde,” he asked when he trusted his voice.
Agent Dolarhyde’s face twisted, became ugly as he tried to find the right words to say. When they passed under another wash of streetlights, it took the shadows and colors from his skin, leaving him sallow and foreboding.
“They tried to take you, Mr. Graham,” he said at last, rounding his words up. “And I do my job very well.”
“Where are the rest of the agents?”
The grief-stricken look Dolarhyde gave him was his answer.
“Where are we going, then? Have we called Jack?”
“We’re going to the house where you will be…safe.” He struggled with the word, although it seemed to stem more from a lack of desire to use any word that didn’t have the letter ‘S’ in it. “Then we will make the call.”
“Do you trust me, Mr. Graham?” he asked lightly.
“I trust Jack Crawford,” Will replied after a while. “If he trusts you, then I trust you.”
“Jack Crawford trusts me to keep you alive. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you.”
“And my friends?” Will pressed.
“And your friends,” Dolarhyde agreed. “I apologize that we didn’t have time to retrieve your dog, Mr. Graham.”
Despite the situation, Will found himself heaving a short, dry laugh. “They’re not animal killers, are they?”
“No, Mr. Graham.”
“You can call me Will, Agent Dolarhyde,”
“No,” he said, and his grip tightened on the wheel. “That’d be…rude.”
Will was too tired to fight that. Off to the side, in the far distance, he saw the beginnings of sunrise, fingers grasping to peel away the layers of the dark in which Hannibal’s followers had used. Followers. Somehow, Hannibal had gotten himself some followers.
“I’m sorry,” he said miserably to Beverly and Molly in the back seat.
“It’s alright, Will,” Molly said. Despite the tremor in her voice, it came out stronger than he’d expected. “It’s not your fault.”
“As long as my teachers get an e-mail, I think we’ll be okay,” Beverly said dryly. “And hell, Will, Saul is already asleep.”
Will turned around to see, and sure enough, Saul lay with his head sprawled in Beverly’s lap, fast asleep.
“Your presence releases serotonin,” he informed Beverly.
“That’s what I’ve been told, Dr. Graham.”
“It’s ten hours to the safe house,” Francis informed him. Will turned back around and adjusted his seatbelt. “Try to…rest.”
It would be a futile effort, Will knew, but he’d try. Rather than force dreams where he knew he’d wake with the sensation of what it’d be like to bleed to death, Will tracked the rising sun, each blink of his eyes a gunshot that’d just narrowly missed both him and Francis.
It seemed he hadn’t run out of time just yet.
He dozed between two gas station stops, and by the third the sun was well into the sky. When they stopped again, Saul was finally awake, although the chatter that’d filled the apartment before was sorely missing. Will wasn’t sure if that was a blessing or a curse.
“Do you want anything inside?” Beverly asked. They were climbing out of the back seats, herding around Dolarhyde as he gassed the SUV up. Will watched them, expressions varying from exhaustion to grim determination, and he shook his head.
“I’m not sure that I can eat right now,” he admitted.
Francis didn’t like him waiting alone in the car, but Will promised to lock the doors and slump down in his seat. He wasn’t entirely confident that someone had managed to follow them all that way, but Francis’ paranoia was something to wonder at. In between bouts of small, two-minute naps, Will would watch his face. The calm, steady assurance remained, but he glanced to the rearview mirror for more than just cautionary checks of the traffic around them. More than once, Will noted how he’d grip the steering wheel so tight his knuckles would whiten. He wondered how many agents had given their lives, just so they could get away.
He wondered why anyone even thought he was worth the effort.
Once the doors were sufficiently locked, Will slumped down in his seat. The silence pressed in, heavy with accusations at him, and he let out an uneven breath of air. He counted seconds by the muted clicks of his eyelids. He counted minutes by the sensations that crawled along his skin, reminding him that even if he lived through this, many more would die as a result. Was his life worth it? Who was he, in the grand scheme of things?
Needing some sort of distraction that didn’t involve people, he turned on the radio.
“…and that’s all for the weather today! Right now, we go to Darren and Clara for our news reports during this noon hour.”
It wasn’t just the FBI agents. Will glanced down to his shoe whose rim was red with the blood he’d had to step through to get away. Beverly, her soulmate-boyfriend Saul, and Molly were in danger because of him, because he’d saved Jack Crawford’s life so long ago. It wasn’t right for them to be in danger, nor was it right that they were stuck in a potentially fatal situation.
God, who was going to feed Winston?
“Thank you and yes! I mean, they’re kids, but come on…”
The shock must still be strong for them not to complain about what he’d inadvertently done to them. That, or they were far better people than he deserved, to have their lives at stake and still find the grace to smile.
“You know, Darren, I’m hearing a lot of complaining about millennials, but let’s talk about baby boomers, shall we?”
He shouldn’t overthink it, but he’d once gone to therapy due to his horrific ability to internalize to the point that the emotions were his and his alone. He’d once sat across from a serial killer who spent a good half of his hour-long sessions peeling away the dark thoughts from his head in order to organize them in neat piles for discussion. The tools given then to compartmentalize his feelings were put to use now –not with much success, but at least he could say that he was trying.
“Y’know, I’ve got a rebuttal for that, but right now we’re getting something from federal authorities, a follow-up to our earlier discussion. There is currently an east-coast wide search for the missing Will Graham of GWU in Washington, DC.”
The sound of his name from the radio pulled him from his dark, roiling thoughts.
“-where authorities are telling us that early this morning, Will Graham was abducted from his apartment complex by people who are suspected as accomplices to the escape of Dr. Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lecter yesterday morning.”
“Now, wasn’t it just the other day that a woman in Baltimore, Maryland murdered someone in Hannibal the Cannibal’s ‘name’? I think I remember her gutting someone, right?”
“Yes, and it looks as though several federal agents lost their lives this morning trying to protect this guy from the same fate. Listeners, we’re going to put the photos of these wanted people on our website, as well as the last vehicle they were seen in. If you happen to see these guys, give us a call, give authorities a call, but do not engage them. They are considered armed and dangerous. Let’s bring Will Graham back to safety, yeah?”
“Can you imagine being a victim of a kidnapping like that?”
“I can’t! I mean, the closest I’ve gotten to that was a girl in a bar that just wouldn’t let up, you know? She kept asking for my number, wondering if I was single…”
“I’ve seen you in bars, buddy, and I’m going to call bull on that one.”
Their words rebounded inside the bone arena of his skull, left Will reeling as he realized that it wasn’t a joke. Once they sunk deep enough to bruise, he didn’t hesitate. He was out of the car before he could process what his next move would be, the radio turning off as the door opened. He closed the door behind himself, heart pounding each and every word further and further into his skin as he was forced to realize the truth:
Dolarhyde was one of them.
“We have to go,” he interrupted Molly, whirling around to face her. “Molly, we have to go.”
“Will, what’s happened?” She looked frightened, her brow creasing as she took in his shaking hands and sallow skin.
“I just heard the radio, Molly. Dolarhyde is one of them. He’s working for Lecter.”
“Oh, Will,” Molly said with a sigh. She suddenly sounded nothing like herself, her tone shifting as her expression of dismay fell. “Why’d you have to turn on the radio like that?”
Her words made his skin go cold, his muscles tensing. “…Molly?” he ventured cautiously.
“Get back in the car, Will.”
He hesitated, his mind refusing to accept what he was seeing, what he was hearing. When he didn’t move, she sighed and stunned him further when a gun was removed from her purse. With perfect, calm assurance, she leveled it at his stomach.
“Please get back in the car, or I will shoot you.”