Will groans down at the pain he wakes up to. He swings his eyes around the orange-glowing room with a confused brow.
“Setting,” Hannibal breaks through Will’s blur to answer his question. “The sun is setting. It’s afternoon.”
“Ah.” Will smiles at the ceiling, exhausted from lifting his head to watch Hannibal tend to his ankles at the edge of the bed. “Ah!” He hisses and tries not to jerk away from the testing fingers.
“Luckily, it seems your ankle fractures are worse than mine,” Hannibal chuckles to himself, “which means that I can ensure your bones set properly and you can make sure I avoid infection. Well, worse infection.”
Will frowns at the ceiling, trying to envision resting life.
The expert voice continues on from the far edge of the bed, now finished replacing the small wooden splint. “The most fortunate of all realities: our spinal compression fractures from hitting the water are nowhere near what they could have been if we added another one hundred feet to our descent. Certainly, we won’t rock climb ever again, but we could sleep on our sides within the week.”
Will scoffs and looks down his body at the doctor peering back. “Wahoo,” he scoffs.
“You expected to die. You wanted to die.” Hannibal says without question.
“The more I think about it… the less I consider it a duty to the world – that I tried to remove three serial killers off the planet in five minutes – but more of a service to us.” He rests his head back.
“You didn’t think we’d heal.”
“I didn’t think you’d heal.” Will tries his mind at telepathy to say the rest: and I didn’t want to live without you .
Despite their lack of supernatural mind tricks, Hannibal hears what isn’t said. He pats the bed to signal a mood change. “If you don’t mind, could you rebandage me? I’m afraid the probability of infection is a little too realistic for me to try to privately address it. Flailing arms.” He mimics clumsily trying to properly tend to his own back, something he tried in the mirror while Will was sleeping.
“Yes, if you bring me the supplies, I can do that right now.”
When Hannibal returns without a shirt to now sit on the side of the bed, it’s more clear now why he is excited to be able to sleep on his side.
“I had enough access to the site to rinse it, but not enough to apply the gel or tape more gauze.” Hannibal speaks while facing the window.
Will perches himself up against some pillows, now even further grasping why it is so important that just his ankles and ribs were worrisome. He puts some gel onto his fingers to apply to the exposed wound, careful not to submit to the impulse to roughly smooth it in like sunscreen. Once it glistens over every part of the reddish broken skin, he stiffly reaches for the gauze and tape, now taking the opportunity to graze the pads of his fingers across the man’s bruised back. Soon it will be a memory that they were ever this injured. Reentering society with walking aids will blend into the world more than bloodied gauze.
Hannibal’s eyes observe Will’s focused exploration, careful not to hint that it should stop.
A moment later, Will does break his trance to look up at the eyes he knew were watching him. “We really can get past this.”
“It’s our next life. We’ll both be lucky enough to keep becoming.” Hannibal smiles weakly but comfortably, patting Will’s chest and gathering their medical supplies to return them to the bathroom.
When he leaves for the main part of the cabin, Will feels a sharp pang of loneliness and cold, making this the real first time he’s aware of their new home here in the taiga.
Hannibal quickly returns with water and some airplane peanuts before climbing into bed himself. He hands both glasses to Will while he props a pillow under himself to relieve some pressure off his wound. Hannibal drains the glass, takes a mouthful of peanuts and chews them, already drifting to sleep.
Will smiles down at him, charmed by how medicinal he’s turned the burst of protein and sodium. Looking down at the resting doctor, he considers how much precious energy he must have donated to take care of him. How he manages to blur selfless heroics with puppeteer manipulations. Will slides cautiously back into his corpse pose to sleep through another dose of hydrocodone.
The outdoors are familiar enough. There are tall, dark pines that don’t quite smell like the pines of Appalachia. The water is brighter and so cold here it doesn’t hold the same reek of aquatic life iconic for the bayou or the polluted Chesapeake. It’s just quiet and crisp and it reflects your life right back at you. It asks a person to become anonymous in the sheltering of endless nature but simultaneously hyper-aware of their trivial personhood. How truly small their lives had been. How in the span of life on earth, their unimaginable survival is unremarkable and will be forgotten. It's simply open and all possible and impossible.
“Will?” Hannibal interrupts his poetic internal ramblings.
Will jolts back to his place on the lakeside, fishing pole thrashing with his waking. “Yeah?”
“Did you catch anything for dinner? If not, I have plenty for stew now after heading into town.”
“I didn’t catch anything, I uh – wait, yes, I did, but it –”
“Will–,” he grabs his shoulders and lifts his hat to get a clearer view of the younger man’s eyes. They’ve become more comfortable with touching after a week of caretaking. “Are you okay?”
Will barks out a breathy laugh. “I really, I really don’t know what that is.”
“What do you want clarity on?” Hannibal’s face doesn’t flinch with emotion at this; he’s gentle and stoic still, but warmer now than ever.
“I am stagnating or still asleep. I think if I am not going crazy then I’m-I’m not doing .” He winces at the doctor’s accidentally tightening grip on his injured shoulder.
“Are you looking to unlearn that, the impulse to go mad, or are you looking for something to make you go mad?” The doctor asks without judgment, prepared for either answer.
“Everything is so obvious now. It’s just us, with enough money for life, a home, knowing that no one will come knocking at our door looking to put us away. I just know everything. It’s not that I’m agitated by the thought of some potential storm coming but by the concept that maybe we’re past storms.”
“Are you saying you want to be on the run?”
“God. No. I mean, that is, I think, what the agitation was born from, but–” Will stumbles on his own words, hoping that he’ll trip on some that might say what he actually means.
“Is there something in particular you thought would stay in motion or did you make the mistake of romanticizing the calm of stagnation?”
Will shakes his head with a bashful smile. “I don’t think it was a mistake to romanticize it. I just - I just had prepared my body for anxieties that died there. In the Atlantic.” He waves noncommittally while he looks back at the lake.
“So it’s not the anxiety you want. You just wanted the heart to race again.”
Will doesn’t answer aloud. That was exactly it.
Hannibal proceeds, “it will. Your heart will race again.”
Will’s eyes wander around Hannibal’s face, searching for an upturned corner of a mouth, a crinkle in his brow, a glint, a heat, but he finds nothing. Just the doctor, still introducing him to himself. “I’m getting comfortable with pretending you’re all-knowing. I like going along with it.”
“Pretending?” Hannibal smiles in facetiousness.
Will looks back out at the lake. “You operate with so much performed confidence that I begin to believe you actually do see the future.”
“Are you trying to wound me?” He looks confused more than rejected.
“No, no.” Will takes off his hat and uses it to wipe flecks of lake from his forehead. “I’m saying - in this life we’ve made - I’m enjoying the comfort from believing all of the things you say to calm my nerves.”
“Or to unsettle them,” Hannibal corrects.
“Yes, right, what you say to promise my familiar anxieties.”
“‘Time has been transformed and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion.’ Will,” Hannibal reaches out and roughly brushes his matted curls back into life and mischievously grins, “I promise you a lifetime of movement and discomfort. You have my word.” He lets his hair go and starts the hobble back to the cabin to start dinner preparations.
In no quiet way, Will’s heart stutters to life again.