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The Pines

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Bright.

Bright.

Hannibal clicks on the sterile overhead light in the crowded cabin below deck. Will had been in and out of consciousness for about 20 hours now after Hannibal's painfully slow stitching into his face and shoulder – possibly an overly cautious effort, though more likely a petty punishment for Will’s attempt on their lives. Will blinks through what he identifies as an opioid fog. Through a lacerated face, a stab wound to his upper pectorals, and a number of broken bones he can’t tally, he’s grateful for the fog.

“Will?” Hannibal’s twinkling accent curls his name in a familiar way. “You seem quite lucid now. Are you ready to come upstairs?” In a thin undershirt that shows all of the contours of his bandages, Hannibal stifles groans while he shuffles between the cots. He drapes a coat over Will’s shoulders before tugging him above deck. 

Will coughs through brief system shock while more memory floods back to him in sync with the blinding noon light. “Chiyoh?”

Chiyoh barely looks over her shoulder from the sheltered control area. “I knew he wouldn’t remember my saving his life,” she scoffs almost to Hannibal but mostly to herself.

Hannibal moves robotically so as to not undo Chiyoh’s surgical work in her initial triage and he finds his place near Will.

Will looks around. He’s sitting in a clean and unfamiliar white boat with no sight of a shore. “I, uh, am not overwhelmingly appreciative, actually.” It’s the first full sentence he’s consciously managed in a day.

Hannibal notices his wandering eyes. “We’re headed north. I only woke a half hour before you did.”

Will opens his mouth to speak knowing there was a lot to say, though he really just feels an impulse to apologize that they survived at all. However, Chiyoh’s immediate rescue suggests that Hannibal isn’t sorry for or surprised by their survival.

 

Chiyoh interrupts, “you will be flying out of St. John’s.”

Will flicks his still tired eyes over to her. He wants to ask if he is dead, but he asks instead, “is that somewhere in New England?”

“Newfoundland.”

“So we’re in Canada?” His boyish incredulity contorts his face around his new bruises and stitching.

Chiyoh answers in her gentle rhythmic English while pointing down at a square bag at her ankles, “I took the liberty of putting a few stamps in your passports to make your synthetic lives seem more lived in.” 

Hannibal smiles at her proudly. She does not return the smile and continues, “it was hard to orchestrate a flight from St. John’s that didn’t connect back in the States but I did. I found you a connection through Oslo. That will take you right into Helsinki and then from there… you will begin your next life.”

Will, still feeling some strange bond with her after their short and turbulent history, feels compelled to ask, “and you?”

“This is where we part ways. I’ll stay around here. I haven’t made any arrangements yet, but I’ll figure something out.” Chiyoh truly does not look sad or defeated, but she does naturally lean toward cold illegibility.

“I’m sure you will.” Hannibal looks at her again with a pleased smile. He admires – he’s always admired – her specific brand of nobility and loyalty to him, especially now as their moral contract to each other comes to an end.




Hannibal runs through the healing process that he and Will can expect for their broken vertebrae, ribs, and ankles from the fall. He ranks their wound care priorities: gut stitches and infection prevention, followed closely by spinal compression fractures. The next 12 hours will severely dent their recovery process,  but the years taken off their bone health will be well worth it to live without a cage. Luckily, the doctor can expertly monitor their opioids and makeshift splints. Hannibal pulls a bound folder out of the bag by Chiyoh’s feet and helps the younger man back down the narrow stairs, clear now that he didn’t bring them up to socialize. Both men relax again in the quiet warmth of the ship’s cabin and Hannibal turns off half of the lights so they can avoid additional tension.

Undoing the folder’s fittingly classic twine-fastened cover, Hannibal slides out a thin notepad, several passports of different colors, international bills, cards, pamphlets, and more birth and citizenship documentation.

 

“We’ll be Canadian expats.” He hands Will the two blue passports from the pile.

The passports contain their photographs, each about a decade old and edited to look like two men who might’ve arrived here in some alternative, less treacherous way. Tomas Moze Sabonis of Toronto and Samuel Max Boucher of Calgary. 

“Hello, I’m Sam - I’m Samuel - Sam. Hi, I’m Sam Boucher. Sam.” Will rehearses, trying to adjust to his new name. “Boucher? You made me French-Canadian?”

“In this life, your name will fit properly in my mouth. Boucher. Boucher .” Hannibal, unsurprisingly, recites the name with a musical authenticity.

“Tomas Moze Sabonis. A simple name but still very you .” Will looks up from the documents to the side of Hannibal’s pleased face. “‘Moze’? Really? Your middle name is ‘the boy saved from the water’?”

“A charming coincidence.” Hannibal laughs out now at the absurdity of life.

Will joins in, managing the best eye contact he can with drugged vision.



“Helsinki. That's close to Lithuania.” Will remarks after they settled into silence, still thumbing through their papers.

Hannibal notes what Will tries to not-so-casually imply. “I won’t be going there. I don’t feel in any way indebted to my homeland – that I might owe it some pilgrimage. Will you?”

“Will I… what?”

“Will you feel compelled to return?” Hannibal prods with an unmoving stare, “as we prepare to leave here, do you find yourself already imagining your homecoming?”

“I don’t think there’s anything for me here.” He laughs breathily without breaking eye contact. “Quite recently I was convinced there wasn’t anything for me on earth.”

Their eyes mutually agree to not address his villainesque murder-suicide leap at this moment. Maybe that is a conversation for the plane.

“Nothing here for you, Will Graham , or for people like you?” Hannibal scoots forward on his opposite cot to get a closer look at Will. “In your head, are you the monster or are you inhabited by it?”

“We are not monsters. It’s that we’re–” he grimaces and spits out his last word, “beasts.”

Hannibal successfully buries his smile at Will’s reflex to use ‘we’ and continues to prod. “I find when people say ‘beast’, they refer to a human reduced down to his most human urges, desires. It’s so foreign to the urban man that we’ve exoticized ‘primal’ to mean ‘animal’.”

Will, despite his injuries, finally falls into his more combative state. “For someone so intellectual, you do really worship instinct.” 

“We are all savage at our core; we are stupid and desire-governed creatures at our most sincere. To ignore these carnal wants is to deprive the human spirit. It would be cruel.” Hannibal looks around the cabin with a smirk he means for Will to see.

“So you are human. You admit it.” Will weakly mocks through bruised ribs.

The man snaps his attention back to him. “Oh, I take pride in it.”




After a few minutes of flipping through the thin European map book, Will attempts a less charged conversation. “Finnish. Is that similar to Lithuanian?” He wonders if he’ll be alone in his linguistic setbacks.

Hannibal chuckles, “no, not even a little.”

“So. Were you planning for Helsinki or hoping to trek off into some mysterious forest?”

“Nothing quite so dramatic, but yes, I’d pictured seclusion. It’s easy to blend in as a private person in Finland. It’s sort of what everyone is doing.”

“Done some anonymous travels there, have you?”

Hannibal closes his notepad and it’s clear he won’t answer that question. “The Finns mind their own business.” He clears his throat to signal a subject shift. “So we’d be outside of Helsinki’s greater metro area but still within a distance where we might enjoy city culture from time to time. And close enough to not raise eyebrows as foreigners.”

“So we’d really just be…” Will twirls his fingers while looking back to the atlas.

“In a cabin in the forest, yes.”

He pushes the borrowed, slightly off-prescription glasses back up his nose while he looks back to Hannibal. “That’s uncharacteristically homely of you, doctor.”

“Well you know me to work with my body, how far could that really be from embracing life in the rustic?”

“Surgeon to psychiatrist to logger.”

“If you think that is versatile, consider my extra-curriculars.”

Will chokes out a surprised laugh, not expecting someone so guarded and proper to poke fun at himself, much less speak so openly about life as a cannibal. Of course, if there were ever a time to loosen the ties of the mask, it'd be now.