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Moving Forward

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Jack’s voice continues to drift over the phone line, but Will doesn’t process it. There’s a deer in his backyard. A real one, he's pretty sure. Will's standing frozen in the middle of his living room, and the deer is standing just as still in the yard, watching. Still in his nicest coat and gloves from seeing Hannibal for the first of their renewed therapy sessions. Still in his Hannibal costume. It went fairly well, all things considered. A good start. Will had assumed that Jack was calling to ask how his first fishing attempt went, but he was wrong.

“I see,” Will says, feeling oddly bereft, and the deer suddenly bounds into action, disappearing into the trees. “Thank you for letting me know.”

He hangs up the phone and sets it on the table. He occupies himself with placing his hands next to the phone, leaning his weight against them. Will lets himself focus on his physical actions and sensations, leaving the rest behind. So. Frederick Chilton is in critical condition, probably going to die. Shot in the face by Miriam Lass. Will sent him away, and sent him to his death.

He stands there, doing nothing but wrestling with the horrible and nearly irrepressibly urge to call Jack back and yell at him. Or worse, to drive back to Hannibal’s office and finish what he started in his kitchen the night before, but he doesn’t. Hannibal must know by now that Will has found out about what he arranged. He might prepare for Will to make a move in revenge, just another continuation of their game.

Will breathes deeply and thinks back to the circular conversation they had, looking for the bright spots and clues. Most of what they talked about had little to do with anything important and everything to do with the pageantry of the conversation. It was theater.

“What are you doing?” Will had asked, watching Hannibal makes a note in his book. He tried to keep his tone politely curious instead of suspicious.

“Just keeping my records. January twelfth, the day Will Graham returned,” Hannibal responded pleasantly, snapping the book shut. Will had wanted to rip the page out, tear it to pieces. He sat down in his usual chair instead, waiting. When he didn’t continue the conversation, Hannibal did it for him.

“You look very nice tonight Will, perhaps prison agreed with you more than you thought,” Hannibal said, clearly teasing. Clearly enjoying himself.

“Being released from prison agrees with me more.” Will curled his fingers into the arm of his chair, his cheap imitation of their pervious banter feeling like just that. “But it was certainly an illuminating experience.”

“Illuminating in what way?”

“Mostly in regards to our relationship,” Will said, not allowing himself to get too worked up over the topic. He still had weeks, maybe months, of work ahead of him with this. He couldn’t afford to be hasty.

Hannibal’s gaze flickered back down to his body. “I would say that I’ve had a positive effect on at least one area of your life.”

Will resisted the urge to outright glare. “I try not to let what you do or do not like impact my actions.”

"anymore?" Hannibal raised an eyebrow, the corner of his mouth barely turning up at this side. “That behavior in and of itself suggests a certain level of influence.”

“I didn’t say it was working,” Will said, smiling back, just as slightly. He had been flirting, poorly, but he suspects that Hannibal would see through it immediately if he tried to lie. He wasn’t at a point where he could deceive him, not yet. The rest of the session continued along the same vein. Smoke and mirrors, and all the while, the low throb of betrayal. The hum between them, still alive, even now.

Will takes a deep breath, reminding himself of what he’s doing and why. He can only go forward. Anything else won't be productive.

“Then again,” he mutters to himself as he strips off his coat and makes for the cabinet across the room. “Neither is this.”

The dogs swirl around his feet, still that excited to see him after his long absence as he pulls out the dusty old bottle of whiskey. He holds it up for them to see. “A moment of weakness before the real work starts.” They obviously don’t appreciate his humor, but then Will is running out of actual people to talk with. They keep dying on him.

He sits down heavily on the couch and lets himself sink into it. The knowledge weighs heavily on his shoulders, pressing them down. He hadn’t expected feeling so affected by Frederick Chilton’s death. He doesn’t- didn’t even like the man.

“Guilt,” Will says, staring up at the ceiling. The dogs all watch him from the floor, no doubt sensing his poor mood. "Predictable."

He takes a long drink from his glass and closes his eyes, picturing everyone that he had failed. Frederick. Beverly. Abigail. It hits him like a physical blow, and he curls in on himself, face buried in the couch cushions. He’s too drawn out to cry, and too damn tired to try to do anything else.

Winston comes up to the couch and sits so his face is right next to Will’s. His tail thumps against the floor, making a low, rhythmic sound, and Will smiles reflexively. “Good dog,” he says, raising a hand to pet his head. “I wish I was as good a person as you are a dog.”

Winston cocks his head to the side. Will thinks that he should probably stop talking to the dogs. It’s not a good sign for his sanity. He lies there, watching Winston watch him and thinking about everything that had led up to this.

So many wrong decisions, even outside of Hannibal’s influence. He can’t even blame Hannibal for all of it. Will might have kept them safe. The anger is creeping back up on him now, still present from his visit to Hannibal’s office and inflamed by his failure with Frederick. He stopped himself from throwing himself at the other man, if Hannibal can really be called a man, and beating him bloody, but his self control apparently doesn’t extend to his private behavior.

“Dammit!” He throws his glass, still half full of whiskey, across the room. It connects with the wall next to the cabinet and shatters spectacularly, whiskey and glass falling around in the area, but mostly landing behind the cabinet. The dogs bark, riled up. It isn’t even mildly satisfying.

Will puts his hands in his hair and pulls. “I could have- just, let him stay! I could have done it right. If I had another chance. Could have saved him. Fuck!” he yells and rolls onto his back, trying to calm himself. Winston skitters away, startled by his outburst. Will lets out a harsh breath and rubs his hands over his eyes.

Silence descends, and Will thinks about getting up to clean the glass that had shattered thanks to his childish display. Eventually he pushes himself up and goes over there to get the large and visible pieces, dropping them in the trash. The dogs know better than to get into the rest of it. Will collapses back onto the couch and just focuses on slowing his breathing.

The house is dark, he hadn’t bothered to turn on any of the lights, and it’s easy to just let himself drift off, sink into the dark. One more chance, he thinks, picturing their faces, right before he falls asleep.

***

When he wakes up, Will is surprised to find himself in his own bed. He sits up and peers around blearily, confused. The clock reads six am, which matches the low light of the sun. He must have gotten up off the couch and moved at some point during the night. He scratches his head and tries to focus, but comes up with nothing. Drinking before bed, he decides, and gets up.

The dogs are already up and excited to see him, just like yesterday. Will smiles and gets them breakfast. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to have a hangover, despite his late night activities the night before. He remembers the glass he threw, but then Winston barks, distracting him.

“Ok, ok,” he says as they whine and scratch at the door, reaching into a closet to get his coat out. He follows them outside, taking in the view of his property. Appreciation of the natural world had always come easily to him, but after his stay in the hospital he finds that he loves it even more. The gentle light through the trees, casting an ever changing pattern on the ground below. The give and take of it, life and death in predictable patterns. No one ever wants him to catch a killer fox, it's just their nature. No one tries to prosecute a hawk for scooping up a rabbit. It just is, and he missed it so badly while he was inside it's a physical ache to see it all again.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” he mutters, stroking Buster absently. He spends the morning outside, just being with the dogs.

His phone doesn’t ring that morning, though he’s expecting Jack to call at some point to talk to him about the situation with Miriam Lass and the late Dr. Chilton, who had surely died by now, or for Hannibal to try to lure him out and into the open with his pretty lies. He’s pretty sure his relationship with Alana is over, so it’s not as surprising that she doesn’t call, but it’s still strange to have two days in a row without being called in for something.

“Surely the murderous population of the United States isn’t on a break,” he mutters to himself, and frowns. It’s not funny, even as a private joke.

Cold and freshly determined, he counts it as a lucky break. Will isn’t one to seek out trouble when he has research to do, and he had decided that he needs to gather as much information on Hannibal Lecter as possible before he sees him again. If he has any accessible weaknesses, which Will doubts but won’t give up on, they’ll be buried in his past.

It’s mid-afternoon and he’s already deep into reading about Hannibal’s time at John Hopkins when it occurs to him that he should clean up the glass and whiskey from the night before. Sighing, he gets up, gathering up the dustpan and a trash bag before moving the cabinet. He pulls it away from the wall, grunting with the effort. The dogs swarm in, and he shoos them away, afraid that they’ll cut themselves, but there’s nothing there.

Will stares, unmoving, at the clean floor.

He pushes the cabinet back and slowly walks the edges of the room, searching for the glass. When he doesn’t find any, he goes back to the cabinet and opens the door. Four glasses, the complete set. Four dusty glasses. A cold fear lodges itself in his spine and he takes a steadying breath. With the encephalitis gone, he thought that he was done hallucinating. Apparently not.

Will shuts the door and sits down on the couch, thinking. There’s nothing physically wrong with his brain. He knows this, knows that he had been tested frequently and thoroughly at the hospital. He probably just imagined throwing the glass, or dreamed it. The theory is immensely unsatisfying, but Will has to admit to himself that it’s the only logical answer.

He’s still in the process of convincing himself that he’s not crazy when the dogs all jump up at once and run for the door. Will looks up, disoriented with deja vu, and gets to his feet. Feeling especially paranoid, he pulls the gun from his drawer and sticks it in the waistband of his pants before he peaks out the kitchen window, wary at the idea of two surprise visitors in two days. What he sees nearly causes him to knock over the table in his haste to get the door open.

“Frederick?” he calls out, nearly yelling, coming to a graceless stop in front of the other man.

Frederick Chilton, who is supposed to be dead or at the very least have a hole in his face, is standing on Will’s porch wearing the exact same bloodstained outfit Will knows should be the property of the FBI. He draws back, clearly startled by Will’s tone and clutches at his suitcase. “Ah- yes. Mr. Graham. I’m sorry to impose, but may I use your shower please?”