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Where the Wicked Walk

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Chapter 30:

            Will stared at the table setting in front of him, and he swallowed the sudden rush of bile that turned his spit bitter. Just to his side, Winston paused and sniffed the air, head tilted to catch the faint clattering sounds of copper lids being removed from elegant dishes of fine china. Rich, golden tapers cast a dim light along vines that crawled amongst potpourri and crystal decanters of blood red wine.

            Just across from him, Hannibal delicately laid a small, cooked bird beside figs and walnuts.

            “This is…”

            Hannibal glanced up at him briefly, and the smile just at the edge of his lip was dangerous. “This is just dinner, Will. As you said.”

            “As I said,” Will agreed, and he sat in the proffered chair, tugging at the collar of his buttoned shirt.

            He could do this.

            “This is an Ortolan,” Hannibal informed him as he set the plate before Will. The candlelight flickered across garnet cufflinks, and when he passed behind Will, he caught the faint scent of a musky cologne. Will’s heart clenched, pounded. The endorphins rushing through him made his veins tingle warmly. “I wanted you to be sure that it was no human that we consumed tonight.”

            “Thank you.”

            “I can be reasonable, Will,” he cajoled lightly, and he poured a glass of wine for the both of them. “I wanted you to know that.”

            “I know,” Will replied, and he glanced around the room, swallowing down a heavy gulp. He could do this. His skin hummed, hissed for him to reach out, and he forced his hands to still in his lap. “I…am…trying to be. Reasonable, I mean.”

            There was a brief pause, a minor hiccup in his step as Hannibal turned to sit down, and Will’s fingers cramped from how tightly they were clenched. The mismatched stare was calculating, but there seemed to be something in Will’s face that made his expression soften, hesitate almost. It occurred to Will that, despite how much planning Hannibal had done to make this happen, now that Will was here before him, he was at a loss. Dare Will call it nervousness? Was Hannibal actually nervous to be before a Will that seemed almost willing?

            He could do this.

            “I’m listening, Will,” he prompted, and if Will didn’t know better he’d have almost said the good doctor’s tone was fucking gentle.

            “Let’s just…eat,” Will urged, and he forced himself to reach out and grab the wine glass, taking a long and heavy gulp. The bitter tang on his tongue was a good distraction.

            Hannibal agreed with a dip of his head, and he picked up the cooked bird, displaying it for Will to see.

            “You consume the Ortolan in one bite.”

            “Aren’t you supposed to place a napkin over your head?” Will asked.

            Hannibal’s smile was crafty. “Are you afraid that God will see, Will?”

            “I don’t fear anything anymore, I think,” said Will, and he picked the bird up by the legs, staring into Hannibal’s hideous, mismatched eyes. He could do this. “Do you?”

            “Oh, certainly. You are made of extremities, either consumed by your fears or completely without fear. For the most part, the rest of us feel fear in healthy doses of medium increments depending on the situation.” The look he gave Will made his grip on the bird tighten. “What has taken your fear away, I wonder?”

            Will swallowed heavily, and he gritted his teeth. He could do this. “If you’ll only kill me if I try to kill you and fail, then I have nothing to fear from you.”

            “Do you trust that to be true?”

            “I can feel you in my skin,” Will revealed, and it ached so badly to say it. His voice dropped to a whisper. “And all…all that I can feel is that you’ve wanted me for so long that now that I’m here, you don’t know how to reach me. Nothing you planned for could have truly predicted me.”

            “You are unique,” Hannibal agreed. He sounded reverent.

            “And you wanted me to see you in your entirety. Two halves of a whole.”

            “You don’t fear that someone else within this house will take issue to you, as Matthew did?”

            “No.” Will’s mouth turned bitterly cruel as he tilted his head, mirroring Hannibal’s expression. “I could kill anyone in this house, I think, and you wouldn’t mind.”

            “Even if you turned your blade to me?” Hannibal asked –dare he sound amenable to something so ludicrous?

            “Even so.”

            Will tilted his head back and dropped the bird into his mouth, biting down harshly. Bones ground against bones, muscle and sinew against his teeth as he chewed and swallowed it, spitting the feet back into his hand. The rich flavors were lost to him, consumed as he was in the harshness of his deed. Just across from him, Hannibal stared with rapt attention, and there was a dizzying moment where Will could feel the need, the want that rippled off of him, desperate. His skin burned, hissed, and the ugliest part of his mind whispered treacherously, now would be the perfect time to touch.

            “Maybe,” Hannibal replied, hoarse.

            He stood, and Will stood with him, staring. He could do this.

            “You knew that I’d killed Randall Tier before I asked,” Hannibal murmured.

            “I knew the moment that I landed on Randall Tier that I’d permanently damaged him,” Will replied. “I knew, and I wanted him to have to lay there, helpless as I ran away. I told him, “Fuck you.’”

            “You didn’t hesitate to stab Garrett Jacob Hobbs.”

            “I didn’t need to.”

            “How long have you been having dreams about murder, Will?” Hannibal wondered. “How long after I was arrested before you began dreaming about death?”

            That was a little harder to reveal. The truth always hurt worse than a well-crafted lie. “Not long.”

            Hannibal seemed to savor his words. “Long before I escaped.”

            “I keep thinking about teacups,” Will said. “How it shattered, and I never saw my dad alive again.”

            “Do you go back to that moment in time just before it?” Hannibal asked, “passing your hands along its wholeness, how everything seemed to be somewhat alright?”

            “I think about it. How one moment it was whole, and another moment it wasn’t. I thought…if I wait long enough, maybe it will fix itself. When I got home, I looked at the pieces and the dried and stained tea and thought, ‘if I wait long enough, it’ll piece itself back together again and be whole.’”

            “Did you think of the cup that fell between us? The one that, the longer you stared, the worse it seemed to be?”

            “I hate you,” Will reminded him, and Hannibal circled the table. The candlelight made the hollows of his cheeks sunken, and he thought of the nightmare stories that a babysitter once told of demons that crept through the night. They always devoured those foolish to stray along their path, and there Will was, goading one.

            He could do this.

            “My dear Will,” said Hannibal, and he reached up to gently touch the scar near Will’s eye. Will’s skin hummed, and he forced his eyes to close. They were closed right in front of the enemy, and yet closing them was the most natural thing in the world. Such trust from their bond was vinegar in an open wound. “I know.”

            Years ago, long before Will ever lost his father, let alone met Hannibal Lecter, there was a girl named Pauline. Pauline found her soulmate at the age of 9, and she wouldn’t let anyone forget it. By fifteen, she was the only girl in school with a soulmate, her best friend in the entire world, Bobby.

            Will was her regrettable science partner.

            “You just don’t understand,” she said, and she let out an agonized groan.

            “You’re right,” Will agreed, and he jotted down a couple of notes from their study guide.

            “He’s been sick for a week. No contact, no physical touch…my skin itches. My skin hurts,” she whined, and he let out an irritable grunt.

            “It’s just a week.”

            “Have you ever been kissed?” she demanded.

            Will didn’t answer that. His lack of answer was good enough to Pauline.

            “You can’t imagine, then, what happens. You’ve never even liked someone, let alone felt what it’s like to kiss them. Having a soulmate…it’s ten times better, you know? It’s ten times better than any crush, and if you don’t touch them, even just…just holding hands, it literally hurts.”

            “Sounds awful,” Will replied without missing a beat.

            Pauline wrinkled her nose, and she turned her attention to looking out of the nearby window. “You’ll probably be one of those that never has a soulmate if that’s how you think. Freak.”

            Will sorely wished Pauline had been right.

            Hannibal’s kiss was magnetizing. A soft, lazy zing slithered along his skin and left him tingling, and there was a drowsy moment as he inhaled the taste of him where everything felt just right. This was his soulmate. This was the one. If he never kissed another, that’d be alright with him. Everything was as it should be.

            Hannibal’s arms wrapped around his waist, and Will pressed closer, a hand flat across the small of his back.

            “You hurt,” said Hannibal against his lips, and Will pressed his forehead into Hannibal’s shoulder, nodding.

            “I hate you,” he whispered. Then, “I’m trying.”

            “I know.”

            Silence, and just to the side of them, Winston whined. Will looked to him, then back to Hannibal, and not for the first time he regretted ever taking Alana Bloom’s advice to go and see a therapist.

            “I’m trying,” he repeated, and he pressed his lips to Hannibal’s. He was trembling, but there was something chilling in how his heartbeat began to slow, calm and at ease as the world stilled around them to hold its breath.

            Hannibal relaxed against him, and Will wrapped his arms tight around him –

            -Then drove a linoleum knife directly into his kidney.

            A searing pain streaked along Will’s back, and he screamed in pain as he crumpled to the floor, the knife clattering to the ground beside him. Just across from him, Hannibal lay in a crumpled heap. He made no sound, but he thrashed wildly and gasped for breath that struggled. His veins bulged in his neck, and for a dizzying moment he seemed to silently scream.

            No. No, no, no, no, no.

            Will’s gasping cries cut off at his neck and left him wanting. Frantic legs kicked him back, back, back, and he hit the pillar with a dull thud, heart racing and ice cold as it hammered glass shards through his veins. Winston was there, but his whines fell to unhearing ears, his anxious tongue along Will’s shoulder and arm not felt. His ears were roaring. Tunnel vision made him nauseas, and all he could see was Hannibal struggling.

            Hurting.

            No, no, no, his skin burned, his skin burned; you’re hurting him. You hurt him, you hurt him, you –

            There was the ricocheting slam of a door, and Will turned to the side, a sob of pain ragged on his teeth; this was it. This was how he died, feeling the pain reflected from a man who he’d rather see dead than –

            Francis Dolarhyde stared at the scene before him, and he blinked lazily, once. Will thought of the first time that he met him, how he’d seemed so earnest, and how his touch weeks later had been kindly tentative as he pressed fingers to the scar by his eye.

            Dolarhyde turned and looked to Will rather than Hannibal.

            “Sir?” he asked calmly. His lips didn’t slur the ‘s’.

            “Burn this place down,” Will managed to grind out. Fuck, getting stabbed in the kidney was agony. He gulped down a cry of pain. “And let him die.”

            No, no, no, no, no –

            Francis Dolarhyde bent down and studied Will from head to toe, taking stock of his injury -rather, his lack thereof. He looked to Hannibal and the streaks of blood that trailed along his side, rivers thick and dark. It was a good stab, deep; Jack Crawford would have been proud. Hannibal looked deliriously near unconsciousness, still silent in his pain. Could he feel Will’s rage? Will’s fury?

            Will’s betrayal? How deep had that sunk in?

            WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WHATHAVEYOUDONEWHATHAVEYOU –

            Francis picked Will up and held him close, his steps sure and calm as he headed towards the door. Will tried to think of Winston following close behind, of Abigail Hobbs finding Jack Crawford, of Beverly really, truly maybe surviving killing Saul, of his surviving murdering Hannibal –

            NO, NO, NO, NO, NO

            “N-no,” he hissed, and a pain reverberated and pulsed around his kidney, leaving him dizzy. “I can’t, I can’t leave.”

            “They’re just chemicals, Mr. Graham,” Francis informed him, not unkind. “Don’t let them control you.”

            It hurt, though, it hurt and he was going to die like this, wasn’t he? Wasn’t this how it ended, the only way in which Hannibal Lecter could fall being if Will Graham fell, too?

            He thought of how relieved Jack Crawford had been to see him in the hospital, as though everything could only be okay if Will Graham had lived through Hannibal Lecter’s terror, too. He’d looked, and Jack Crawford looked back, and somehow they’d always be connected through Hannibal, that their relationship only grew because Hannibal. All roads, in the end, led back to Hannibal.

            His silence seemed to be enough of an acquiescence. Dolarhyde skirted Winston pacing impatiently by the table, and he headed towards the door with purpose, holding Will tight against him so that he didn’t fall.

            “Don’t let Beverly die here,” he managed, and the echoing pain made his eyes water. Black spots danced in his vision.

            “I won’t.”

            “Or Molly,” he pressed.

            “I will retrieve them, Mr. Graham,” Dolarhyde assured him, and he turned the handle decisively on the door.

            Life is comprised of moments. Will could adequately explain several moments that defined him: who he was, how he behaved, what he believed. He would first mention his father’s loss of a soulmate, how that day he witnessed Bill Graham stare out of the window and weep for hours. He would mention the one fishing trip where he accidentally caught the hook in the leaves up above the two of them and brought acorns raining down, how they laughed and his father talked of happy accidents. He would briefly mention his father’s death, although that truly affected him the most despite the least amount of time taken to speak of it. He would mention the first time he’d met Hannibal Lecter, how he felt both calm and afraid. He would mention the last time he saw him in that same office, walking away from him with blood on the cuff of his trousers. He would mention the day that Hannibal Lecter was sentenced. He would mention graduating from college, how he saw so many friends and acquaintances within the crowd but God dammit his father wasn’t one of them. He would mention briefly one of the first men he ever had sex with, how they’d both been awkward and laughed about it afterwards. He would mention meeting Molly, how they’d danced together in the quiet of the living room where he proved that he wasn’t so awkward when it was one-on-one without the crowds and the noise.

            He would gloss over getting kidnapped. He would mention murdering Matthew Brown. He would lament the forced Âme décalée, bemoan the murder of those whose names were just too close to his. He would agree if someone asked about murdering Hannibal Lecter, his soulmate. Yes, that would define him if nothing else did.

            Truly, when all of the lights in the house went out and a screeching, alarming siren sounded, that was another moment that Will would remember in its entirety when he realized that he would forever be changed by Hannibal Lecter, even if only just a little. That maybe, while hating him, there was a very small part of him that would always have to love him.

            “Run,” Hannibal managed to wheeze, and its faint noise wasn’t so much as heard but felt. It sunk into his bones and branded him. Run, as if to say that Hannibal himself didn’t matter –run, as if to say that none of this, in the end, was worth it if something happened to Will that was out of Hannibal’s control.

            Francis Dolarhyde ran, and Will was distantly aware of the sounds of shouting, of panicked terror. What it happening? Is this happening? The siren drowned out distinct words of panic and calm alike, but Will could hear Winston’s barking over the din, as well as the sounds of a megaphone hooked up to a loud speaker blaring the sort of sound one hears when there is genuine emergency. It's time, the loudspeaker announced. It's time.

            “They’re here,” Francis realized, and he abruptly took a sharp corner and went barreling down to the basement instead. The door closed shut behind them, and as a pulsing, persistent pain made Will whine, he smelled the confusing scent of gasoline.

            Then everything above them erupted into flames.

-

            Jack Crawford stood as a sharp silhouette to the flames that licked up stark white pillars of a house whose entryway gaped from being blown open just a minute before. Smoke billowed from the house in great gouts, as though the thing were alive and trying to draw breath. Adrenaline was a pressure drumming in the pulse in his neck, and in truth it was only Starling beside him that kept him from trying to rush in to find Will.

            “Good thing you brought the fire department,” she commented, and his grip on the shotgun tightened.

            “Always bring some kind of fire department in things like this,” he replied, only that wasn’t what he wanted to say. Where’s Will was a good start, closely followed by Where’s Hannibal.

            “You just keeping yourself from running in on your own?” Starling wondered.

            “If I thought I’d survive it, I’d try.”

            “Sometimes being the boss isn’t so nice,” she commented. “It’s not like the FLDS days where I was the first one cuffing bastards.”

            She was trying to distract him from the feeling of helplessness as he paced and waited, information being relayed through the walkie that sat just in reach. Mostly talk about fire. Mostly talk about bodies. Some talk of apprehending. “Bit higher rank, bit higher pay grade? Bit less danger?”

            “Something like that,” she agreed. “Bit more anxious, though, waiting.”

            “Sir, I’ve got Purnell on the phone,” Price said, and the way the flames flickered and lightened his face gave his mouth an eerie twist. “It’s urgent.”

            Given the way his men were currently rounding up any that came rushing from the house to escape the fire that’d started inside of it, Jack couldn’t have said that a phone call at a time like this truly qualified as urgent, but he took the phone anyway. Eyes, mismatched shades of brown, stared at the plantation home that would have once been the sort of place to hold historical tours and luncheons for debutants, and there was an eerie sort of feeling of standing in two places at once, seeing the house in its finer glory as they’d secured the perimeter, then seeing the flames erupt as his men moved into position to storm the place. A tripped perimeter wire, Rogers had said on the walkie, although they didn’t know exactly who had done it.

            “Ma’am,” he greeted curtly, watching the flames.

            “If you’re able to apprehend Beverly Katz, she is to be sequestered in a separate van until further notice. No questioning her until we’re at HQ.”

            That took him a moment to process, and the words rolled around. A woman burst through a window, her cries of agony drowned out by the flames that greedily devoured her form as an agent rushed in to help. His heartbeat beat at his eye as he watched.

            “Beverly Katz is –”

            “A major player in your investigation, yes. We’ll talk more in private.” Her voice was unyielding, curt. “A separate van, Agent Crawford. I want her survival a priority.”

            “Yes, ma’am.”

            The agent quickly had the woman moved to a gurney where she was rushed to an ambulance that sat at the end of the driveway, waiting. Jack hung up and considered her, still and blackened with the sort of sickly smell that made his stomach churn.

            And somewhere inside of that blaze, Will Graham was likely fighting for his life.

-

            The basement didn’t smell so much musty as it smelled chemical. Dolarhyde’s steps were no more hurried than before, and there was no pause to consider the din of chaos up above. Francis Dolarhyde turned down a hall whose lights remained off, and the care he took in unlocking the door, then locking it behind them wasn’t lost. This was a planned action.

            They wanted Jack Crawford to be there.

            “What’s happening?” he asked, and a rush of heat washed over him that took his breath, smoke an imaginary thing in his lungs that made coughing difficult. He gagged on the taste and took a breath.

            WHATHAVEYOUDONEWHATHAVEYOUDONEWHATHAVEYOU –

            “The plan.”

            It was different, that voice, and something about it made Will try his best to stifle the desperate noise of pain trying to claw past his lips. Red Dragon was carrying him, now, not Francis. Red Dragon would devour him, should he tempt him.

            “What is your plan?”

            Silence. The look leveled on him was dark, eyes whose depths were cold and never-ending. He could fall into eyes like that, Will thought. He’d fall in, and he’d likely never find his way out.

            “Don’t kill Jack,” said Will, and it was almost desperate. He could feel Hannibal upstairs, bleeding, feel it in the way his own breath shook with labored effort, and God the thought of Jack dying in the house as well was just too much.

            Silence once more. His hold on Will tightened, but nothing else.

            “Please,” Will added.

            “Conserve your strength,” was the curt, ungiving reply. “Focus on closing the bond between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.”

            The next hall was musty, and the walls were dirt. Will’s head lolled into Red Dragon’s shoulder as they walked, and just out of the corner of his eye, Will could see Winston prowling ahead. The noise above them didn’t bother him so much as the smell that he was especially interested in near the next door; he paused by it and turned to them, tail wagging erratically.

            “You will be quiet,” Red Dragon growled, and it was as much a warning as an order.

            Despite the pain rippling along his back in short, curt waves, Will nodded. Two hundred yards away from them, Hannibal lay dying. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe.

            What have you done, Will? What have you done?

            The air was both hot and cold as they emerged from what looked to be a refinished root cellar tucked well into the thickness of the trees. Red Dragon didn’t lock that door behind them, but instead maneuvered Will onto the damp bedding of pine needles and aged deciduous leaves, somehow gentle despite the way his mouth rippled in a silent snarl. They were within the trees, far enough from the house that the roar of fire that seemed to spread with every breath couldn’t touch them, great buffets of black smoke rising into the night. The house was alive, then. It was time to tell its tales.

            Just out of the treeline, dark figures with guns stalked. Firelight illuminated the curt, stark letters of F.B.I. emblazoned on their backs.

            “You’ll stay here,” Red Dragon said, and it wasn’t a request. He pressed close, the sound of his voice told more in the vibrations against Will’s ear than anything else. “Chiyoh is watching you. She will kill them if you reach out to them. She will hurt you if she has to.”

            “Chiyoh?” Will whispered back.

            Red Dragon blinked once. “Hannibal Lecter’s cousin.”

            “Wh-what are you going to do, Francis?”

            “You know that I’m not Francis.”

            Red Dragon wasn’t Francis.

            “You’re going to finish him?” Will whispered back, and he pressed close as well. He inhaled danger as he did. “You’re going to make sure he dies?”

            “Yes.”

            Will nodded, and when Winston lay at his thigh to place his head in his lap, Red Dragon took that as his cue to leave, his figure melting into the trees with the eased practice of a very, very good killer. His steps were silent, and although just a mere twenty feet away a FBI agent walked, there was nothing that Will could do to reach him. The Great Red Dragon was on the move, and Will didn’t want another innocent’s blood on his hands.

            It was a sudden pain that enveloped him and took away all chance to even think of how to escape before Red Dragon returned. It took his breath and made his lungs burn, thudded in his heartbeat, and spread with each rushing sensation until he was slumped into the tree trunk, forced to bite into the fat of his hand to keep from crying out. Hannibal was in pain. Something was happening to Hannibal.

            WHATHAVEYOUDONEWHATHAVEYOUDONEWHATHAVEYOU –

            “No,” he whimpered into his skin, but it was drowned out by shattering glass as the house continued to destroy itself. Someone had set their safe space on fire. Someone would have rather it burned than Jack Crawford find it.

            Jack. He had to get to Jack.

            You’re going to murder your soulmate, Will. You have to go find Hannibal.

            He wasn’t aware of his fading into unconsciousness; much like the lulling sensation of floating on water, small waves of darkness fluttered over him, left his eyelids heavy and his skin aching from a constant burn, a constant, persistent pain that wasn’t his. The waves washed over him, enveloping him. Will Graham thought of teacups and wasn’t quite sure how to fight it. He swallowed water and drowned in how Hannibal’s heartbeat was weak, how it seemed to replace his own because in truth, weren’t they the same?

            He came to with a woman injecting him in his arm with a foreign substance, the glitter of the needle only seen in the wavering light from the distant fire. He thought to fight it, to resist; his muscles were heavy, his skin hot. His heartbeat was slow and ugly in his chest.

            “Molly?” he mumbled, mouth fat.

            The woman that looked up to him wasn’t Molly. Judging from the planes of her cheeks and the almond curve of her eye, it was certainly someone that could boast the name Chiyoh. Lips pursed in concentration slackened, and when Winston lifted his head to whine, her hand dropped to rub his ear idly.

            “You’re in danger,” she said calmly.

            “I’m in pain,” he replied, only that wasn’t entirely true. Will looked down to the syringe that lay abandoned by her knee, felt the way that the pain seemed to seep from his pores rather than remain imbedded, hissing. His heart thudded once, twice; strength returned to it as he took a deep, slow breath.

            The need to go find Hannibal was gone.

            “Where’s Hannibal?” she asked curtly.

            “Hurting,” he said, and he shifted against the trunk. “What’d you do to me?”

            “It’s medicine to mute your bond. I’m going to go find Hannibal.”

            “Isn’t that what Red Dragon is doing?”

            The look she gave him, even in the muted light, was scathing. “Is that what you think he’s doing?”

            It wasn’t, and they both knew it. Will watched Winston lick her hand kindly, then noted the rifle beside her, just within her reach.

            Within his reach, too.

            “It doesn’t last too long, but it will do the job until we make our next rendezvous point,” she said, and she stood in one smooth motion, one moment the rifle on the ground and the next in her hand. Away from his hand. “When I find Hannibal, we will go.”

            “What about Molly?”

            Chiyoh’s face hardened, and she stepped away from him. “She knows the plan.”

            “And Beverly?” he pressed. His back pressed into the trunk, and he thought of the look on her face as she held Saul close, then killed him. Was he going to scream like that? Was he going to scream and scream and scream? “What about Beverly?”

            Chiyoh must have been informed about what happened to Beverly. She looked to the house set ablaze, back to Will, and gave a slow nod. “I’ll do my best.”

            “Thank you,” he said sincerely; not for Hannibal, but for the drug that worked the feeling of dying from his bones, left his mind sharp and quick and God was she really going to try and get Hannibal? Was she going to get Hannibal and leave Beverly behind? Was he going to have to kill this Chiyoh, too? How many people was he going to raze to the ground before all of this was over?

            You’re all going to bleed me dry, he’d told Molly. I wonder who I’m going to have to kill next to set you free.

            As the butt of a rifle connected with the back of her head and sent her crumpling down with a soft, surprised noise, Will decided that no, she wasn’t really going to try and rescue Hannibal.

            “Good hit, Earl.”

            “Shit, Duncan, I know. Come on.”

             He was helped to his feet by two men in camouflage and black, their faces hidden behind the sort of masks worn by hunters. Will thought of his father leading him through the woods, how they preferred fishing to hunting. It was one thing to go and find your dinner. It was another to be so skilled that the dinner came to you. Across the one man’s back, an assault rifle rested, and his counterpart that’d knocked Chiyoh unconscious held another much like it with calm care as he scrutinized Will from head to toe. They went to find their dinner. They were ready to devour.

            “You alright?” one of the men asked, and there was a brief moment where Will struggled to decide if Chiyoh had actually just drugged him, or if any of this was even real.

            “Who are you?” he asked.

            “Name’s Earl,” the man said, and he gestured to his friend that scanned the forest around them. “That there’s Duncan.”

            “Will Graham,” he said, and maybe it was the quick way that Earl was already bent down and tying Chiyoh up that made him decide that no, this decidedly wasn’t a dream.

            He was going to escape.

            “Shit, we know it,” Duncan said, not looking back to them. In the short distance, the fire blazed and wrapped its caress around the walls that kept killers safe. “We saw you on the TV. Recognized you when that fuckin’ traitor came carrying you out. Recognized that cop-killer.”

            “Everyone’s been looking for you,” Earl added. He finished tying Chiyoh up and stood, surveying Will from head to toe. From behind his camouflage mask, eyes wizened by crow’s feet scrutinized him, assessing.

            “Did you do that?” Will asked, gesturing towards the fire.

            “No, they did that,” Earl replied, and his mouth puckered. He looked, for a brief moment, torn between spitting and cursing. Will wondered if he had a chewing habit. “Your FBI-men started to move in real quiet, then the house went and lit up in flames.”

            “Real odd noise,” Duncan agreed with a nod. “Like a ‘whum-whoosh.’”

            “Dolarhyde will come back soon,” Will said, and Earl nodded solemnly. “We have to get to Jack Crawford. This is a trap.”

            “Was there a redhead lady in there with you?” Duncan asked. “Lounds?”

            Will looked to Duncan, then back to the house. Just at his feet, Winston waited with baited breath, although just beneath his calm exterior his skin trembled periodically. He was a therapy dog, not meant for things like burning houses and psychopaths. They needed to get the hell out of there.

            “I don’t recall,” he said at last, then took a step back. Without Hannibal’s pain and anguish crippling him, he felt the need to run and run fast. “She’s going to wake up soon,” he added, glancing down to Chiyoh.

            “Movies make it seem longer,” Duncan pointed out.

            Will’s smile was a grimace. “This isn’t some movie. Believe me.”

            “We killin’ her or leavin’ her?” Earl asked him.

            “Leaving,” Will replied, and he stepped over her pointedly. It was balance, in truth, that made him walk away from someone that was most assuredly Hannibal Lecter’s cousin and therefore someone to hold with suspicion and scrutiny. She saved him from dying through the bond to Hannibal Lecter; he owed it to her not to kill her while she was unconscious and unable to defend herself.

            “I’ll lead you ‘round to them,” said Earl, and he took the lead. Smoke from the house blocked the moonlight, but flickering reds and oranges gave jaunty breaks in the black treeline that sat as silent observance to the things happening just past their branches. It was winter, now; felt like it, at least. Winter in the south was dark and cold. No insects clicked and hummed in the night. The animals of the forest had likely smelled the fire and ran. Survival instincts. Much like the creatures of the forest, Will felt the need to run, too.

            “Didn’t want to come up, seeing as how they’d likely think us as one of them,” Duncan said quietly, and Will hummed in agreement. Knowing Jack, they’d be back in DC before they could shout ‘Don’t shoot!’ or ‘I’m innocent!’ Maybe coming out with him, Jack would slow down for just enough of a second to pause.

            “You said you got some friends in there, though?” Earl asked, voice softening the closer they got to the treeline. “I heard you talkin’ with that lady.”

            “Two people,” said Will, and he wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or weep. “They really ought to be saved.”

            “Hopefully they get to them. They got the fire department, cops, FBI; couple of other badges runnin’ ‘round. Fuckin' hot in there, though.”

            Within two hundred yards of them, Hannibal surely still lay dying. Maybe, just maybe he was already dead. The bond was quiet. Abigail must have made it out alright since the FBI was there.

            He saw the lazy turning lights of police car sirens and SUV’s before he saw the people milling around them. As the trees thinned, sharp movements in contrast to the roaring blaze came out in various bursts, figures as shadows holding arcing streams of water that leapt into the bright red.

            They broke the trees and walked across the lawn into the driveway, and Will saw Jack.

            “Jack,” he said, and that was too quiet. “Jack,” he repeated, a little louder. He felt blood on his hands, felt the warmth of Jack Crawford’s life bleeding out onto the rug, and his hands clenched to fists, his nails digging into the fat of his palm. “JACK.”

            He couldn’t have said if Jack turned around because he heard Will’s voice, or if he merely felt the stare of something desperate and fearful. He turned, and much like the flames had caressed Hannibal’s back as he looked over his flock, the brilliant blaze of the house surrounded Jack and left him dark and demonic before it.

            “They’re roundin’ up survivors,” Duncan noted, but his voice seemed far away.

            “Maybe they got Ms. Lounds,” Earl replied.

            “WILL!” Jack shouted, and there was triumph as much as there was fear.

            Will smiled, then let out an agonized cry as something clawed up his spine and seized his chest, gripping tight. It hurt, it hurt, and as a wave of blackness swept over him, his knees buckled. The last thing Will could grasp onto before he fell unconscious was the sound of his own screaming, on and on and on into the bleak and unforgiving night.