They spend this afternoon pressed against each other, as though they’re water to flush out the other’s wounds, acknowledging without words how absurd it is that they specifically break apart their established fused life to momentarily exist opposite each other – to give to each other, to take from each other.
“Are we evil?” Will asks without segue during a lull in their day of intimacy. At the sight of Hannibal’s due surprise, he adds, “I spent so much of my career tracking the pathological, maybe reinforcing my own road to being one as well.”
“Morality is the herd instinct in the individual,” Hannibal quotes. “You have to first ask: were they evil? Is that what your crime scene re-imaginings told you? You know, perhaps your empathy disorder is not meant to place you well acquainted with humans, but to help you see them from above.”
“Is that biblical imagery or do you imagine yourself as a bug?”
“More like a rodent. A mouse.”
“You’re no mouse.” Hannibal raises a mischievous brow. “Those who look past you, who diagnose you, might mistake your distance as rooted in meekness. But those who truly pay attention to you – they see you’re not stored away in some protective fort you’ve constructed, but in a cage. Behind the bars you’ve welded to imprison your own becoming.”
“Well I’m out now,” Will huffs, partially pointing out the link between the figurative and the sensitive subject of their shared history.
Hannibal climbs out of bed to wash up in the bathroom, leaving the door open to continue their conversation.
“Certainly more of an escapee , not quite absolved of your sins.” Hannibal’s voice calls out from the bathroom. “This is all to say, you feel jettisoned from the world because you’ve been forced by your neurology to feel it all embedded in you and, in some drowning man’s attempt to learn what is you and what is them, you remove life from the earth. Even your own.” Hannibal peeks his head around to look at Will’s reaction.
“To eliminate the competition? Between the voices?”
“Not to do anything. Not for a purpose. It’s you in your genuine self, being as animal as you are in your dreams. Just to reduce yourself to the essentials” He leans, completely naked, against the door frame. “Have you ever considered, Will, that you are not plagued with this ultra imagination to see through the eyes of the anonymous… as some social survival compulsion to blend in? You’re aware it’s not a superpower or a perfected talent. You’ve wished for it gone, probably begged to feel less, so why are you granted an aerial view of human thought?”
“You’re saying it’s a ‘gift’ not an illness?”
“No, you are certainly mad. But a man with this many lives in him? I’d sooner fear him if he felt well at all.”
They both chuckle at this. Hannibal is the only person qualified to call him crazy. Diagnostics are created in the context of the individual - to pathologize him by the level it disturbs him; Hannibal knows what disturbs Will. And is privy to what doesn’t.
“I will let you categorize me, doctor – but you are not some tool in my life to help me unearth myself. Which is what I thought you were. You’re not the shovel that digs me up, all my filthy and tangled roots. You’re the mirror. I guess I couldn’t make sense of myself until I saw it – uh, me – all inverted.”
Hannibal quietly crawls back into his spot on the bed, considering a response. Will has clearly given this a lot of thought.
“It's funny. Everything you say I am – or once believed I am – is what you are. You are the person that introduces these beings to themselves. That translates their work into their meaning. Not as their god but as a tower of Babel. And I?” He turns his hand in the air emptily and continues, “in my life I transform things, sculpt people. But I’ve only ever been that tower to you alone.”
“To help me know who I am despite the wriggling weight of the others.” Will swallows, willing his voice not to waver. “When you lied to me – let my brain burn so that I’d believe I was…”
“Unrestrained… I was only left with you and then I was... everyone else. Holding every axe, every throat. It didn’t boil me down to my essentials as I think you’d hoped. It blurred me into everyone.”
“They are your passengers and I’m…”
“More.” Will stares with daring heat but breaks it with a laugh. “I hated it.”
“My attempt to play God with you, Will, made me a polytheist.”
“Is that your attempt at flattery? Suggesting that now I'm a deity beside you?”
“It isn’t a compliment. Some deities are reflective. It's possible we're doomed to counter each other.”
"It's possible we're 'doomed' because we're bad."
"Do you believe that? That the clumsy, vast universe has an inherent knack for punishing the uncivil?" Hannibal grabs Will's hand to pull him closer.
Will laughs again, though softer now. "No."