Johns Hopkins, Hannibal thought, was going to be the death of him. The American need to be social and engage in drinks with colleagues was both tedious and unproductive. There was one in his cohort who refused to partake in such banal gatherings, and he has been ostracized to the point that his ability to function amongst the residents had suffered. If Hannibal didn't wish his studies to be curtailed by maladjusted sociopaths battling it out to become chief resident, of all the sad ironies, he had to blend in.
He was already foreign, and a few years younger than the rest of them. He had to put a lot of effort into being charming enough to overcome their innate desire to loathe him.
Charming, however, was no longer going to include letting Peggy talk him into shots of cheap vodka.
Hannibal. Get up. Please, get up.
He'd learned to perform normalcy at university in Paris, perfected his disguise, learned to blend in. But now, in America, one of only two woman in his cohort had taken it upon herself to befriend the strange foreign kid. She encouraged his "weird little hobbies" as she referred to his drawing, his passion for cooking, his desire to learn the Theremin, and his "gay, Euro-trash suits."
Peggy liked to host wine and cheese parties in her piece of shit apartment, even though she couldn't afford good wine, or good cheese. Everyone would get fantastically drunk while they performed plays. She said it kept them well-rounded. Hannibal thought it was because getting drunk and reading Molière was more entertaining than getting drunk and reading any of their textbooks.
We're supposed to go together, or not at all.
At first the mangling of great works of literature offended Hannibal, but Peggy explained to him how plays were first performed in front of the mob, with people shouting and throwing things. He did have to admit that people enjoyed shouting and throwing things. Therefore, it was in the spirit of the classics, Peggy told him. And then poured him more terrible wine.
Don't you leave me here on this beach -
She must have known there was something off with her protégé. Hannibal could remember her gently correcting him on occasion, when his response was inappropriate. She helped him complete his person suit, patching the little holes he hadn't known were there. Maybe she saw the danger in him and thought she could contain it. Maybe she saw through his off-hand remarks about the orphanage and - missing the crucial element, that Hannibal had been born a monster, not made into one - assumed he could still be helped. Maybe she just liked it when his gay, Euro-trash suits were on the floor of her piece of shit apartment and he was perfecting his cunnilingus techniques.
I swear to God, I will follow you down to Hell and beat the shit out of you.
Peggy was beautiful, and brilliant, and useful, but clearly it had gone too far. If his current predicament was the result, well, he'd take the hit to his reputation that declining such future bacchanals got him. He would ignore Peggy's imploring. His stomach hurt so badly, it felt like he'd been shot. His head...the less said about that the better.
"For my sins," Hannibal muttered, or tried to. His throat hurt. His lungs hurt.
It occurred to Hannibal that he was cold, and wet, and not at Peggy's, or in his own rat-hole apartment in Baltimore. The thundering in his head wasn't just in his head. It was the ocean battering against a cliff, rushing up the beach. There was sand and rock under his back and cold against his hands.
He opened his eyes and saw a man - bloody slash through his cheek, wet hair curling in the cold wind, the frantic look in his eyes visible even in the half-light - leaning over him. The man was probably about forty years old, give or take, Caucasian, American. Very handsome, for an older man. The cut looked like it was from a knife, or some other sharp instrument.
"Hannibal?" The man cupped Hannibal's cheek; intimate, familiar. His other hand was gripping Hannibal's shirt, clenched over his heart. Blood dripped from his wound onto Hannibal's face. He was crying, though he didn't seem to realize it, wet tracks through the sand and blood, into his beard. "I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry I tried. I had to try."
Hannibal's head throbbed. It wasn't a hangover, he realized, belatedly. Something was wrong. His vision was blurred at the edges and he had terrible vertigo. He put his hand over the man's, holding on in return. He needed, without logic, to reassure himself of this man's solidity.
"Has there been an accident?" Hannibal said. His voice was slurred, that probably wasn't good, but he couldn't presently remember any of the literature about traumatic brain injuries.
What little colour the man had in his face drained away. His fingers skittered over Hannibal's head, touching some wound that made Hannibal hiss in pain. The man's fingers came back bloody. There was a wedding ring on his finger, glinting dully in the light. Hannibal found it exceptionally irritating, but he wasn't entirely sure why.
"Yeah," the man said. "You've been shot, then I...there was a fall. Do you remember?"
That explained the pain, at least. "No," he said.
Hannibal flexed his feet and they both responded. He clenched his thighs and although he felt bruised up and down his body, he didn't think that anything was broken. Next he turned his head slowly from one side to the other. The world spun sickly, swimming behind his eyes, but his head turned. Slight whiplash maybe, but however he'd struck his head might also have been the cause of the soreness in his neck.
"I think I have a concussion, and you need stitches. We need to get to a hospital. If I black out again, please tell EMS that my emergency contact is Peggy - Margaret Freeman. She's also a resident at Johns Hopkins."
The man's face crumpled even more. "Please get up, we have to go."
"If I sit up, I'll likely vomit," Hannibal warned. He rolled to the side and, sure enough, the combination of pain and the resultant spinning of the earth made him heave. He spat out blood and salt water. He'd been in the ocean then. Some accident. They were likely miles away from a phone. Hopefully there would be a major road nearby and they could flag down help. Preferably help who had a car phone.
The man pulled at him, getting one shoulder under Hannibal's armpit, Hannibal's arm slung over his back. He hauled them both upright and Hannibal blacked out for a second. When he came to, the man was half-carrying, half-dragging him down the stony beach. Hannibal realized he was in sock feet, the man only had one shoe. The pebbled beach made each step a fresh new pain.
At first Hannibal thought the light bobbing towards them was a product of his inability to focus his eyes, or some other hallucinatory nonsense, but the man stiffened under him and they staggered to a halt.
"Shit," he said, and made like he was going to turn them around.
Not in Hannibal's head then. He felt queasy with relief. He had no desire to die, gut shot on a beach, without at least knowing what the hell had happened to him.
"Don't stop," Hannibal said impatiently. "Flag them down, we need help."
There was something resigned to the way the man sighed, as if he didn't actually want them to be rescued. He eased Hannibal back down to the sand. Hannibal's clothing was clammy and disgusting, worse against the damp sand, but it felt good not to be standing. Blood pulsed sluggishly out of his abdomen and Hannibal feared that only the oncoming hypothermia was actually preventing him from bleeding out. Not the trade-off he wanted, but he supposed it was working for him.
The man fumbled around next to Hannibal until he came up with a fist-sized rock. He stood, hiding the rock against the dark of his trousers, his posture deliberately unthreatening. Hannibal realized he meant to assault whoever it was coming towards them. Perhaps he meant to kill them.
The person and their flashlight were close enough to make out now - a slim Japanese woman in a sensibly warm coat. Hannibal thought about warning her of the danger. His new companion was clearly not to be trusted, and yet, without reason, Hannibal trusted him. He wanted to watch the stranger smash in someone's head, just to see what it would be like.
The man groaned with relief and dropped the rock. "Of course you're here," he said.
"Will Graham," the woman said, which at least answered one question Hannibal had. "I see you survived the Dragon. And your own madness."
That sounded desperately interesting. Hannibal, having no memory of leaving Peggy's rager, wanted to know how he'd managed to embroil himself with a madman and something called the dragon. It seemed like a lot of trouble to get into in a few hours. The last thing he remembered was Peggy pressing shots into his hand at about eleven-thirty at night. The sun was just a thought on the horizon, the sky barely illuminated with the first whispers of pre-dawn.
The woman peered down at him, pointing her flashlight just to his side, so she could see him without blinding him. It was remarkably considerate. She looked just like Chiyoh, or at least what he imagined she would look like in years to come.
"You look just like Chiyoh," Hannibal said. "Are you related to her?"
Will and the woman exchanged speaking looks that Hannibal couldn't understand. "He has a head wound," Will said. "He's not making any sense."
"Oniisan, I am Chiyoh," she said softly, in Chiyoh's voice, with her cadence.
Hannibal looked at her, and at Will. At Will, who had touched his cheek so tenderly and seemed to know him so well. A sick feeling that had nothing to do with his injuries came over him in a wave.
"You need to take me to hospital," Hannibal said, trying to imbue his words with a confidence he did not feel. "Right now."
"Hannibal," the woman said. It couldn't be Chiyoh, he'd left her behind in Lithuania, still just a girl. Not this cold vision of grown-up poise. She was so settled in her bones. "Do you know who this man is?"
A huge, black, yawning void opened up under him. The very foundations of his memory palace felt cracked open as if by the hand of God Himself. He stood in the ruins of his own mind, shifting sand making his footing uncertain.
"No," Hannibal said.
The woman reached out and touched Will's shoulder, lightly. He shuddered under her hand.
"Hannibal," Will said. "What year is it?"
Hannibal already knew, by the very nature of the question, that he was going to be wrong. "August eighteenth, 1985," Hannibal said. Then, "How much time am I missing?"
"Twenty-eight years," Chiyoh said, without mercy. "Come, I have a boat. Maybe you will live long enough for this to matter."
Together, Will and Chiyoh helped him to a dingy. The bumpy ride was too much for him though and he lost consciousness again before they reached their destination.