Will had been moving on autopilot since he hit the water. First he had to surface, then breathe. Then the crashing water spit Hannibal up from the depths, like Hell itself was ejecting him and Will had to reach him before he slipped back under. Then he had to get them to shore. Then he had to wake Hannibal up. Then he had to get them on their feet. Then the boat.
At some point Will thought he might have to start making decisions again, as though saving Hannibal from the ocean wasn't decision enough. But he hadn't been thinking when he did that. He could have let Hannibal drown. Had, in fact, thrown them off a cliff together in order to do that very thing.
"Hannibal called me from the house," Chiyoh said over the roar of the outboard motor. "He told me not to interfere with you and the Dragon. He let you kill him."
Telling her not to interfere. As though she had some way to know that he was being moved, or that he had escaped. By telling her not to interfere, Hannibal had let her know that he was free, where he was, that there was likely to be trouble, and ensured she would be ready. Manipulative prick, Will thought.
"He didn't die," Will said. He was very sure of that fact since he was sitting in the bottom of the boat, holding onto Hannibal's unconscious body, fingers resting on the pulse at his throat.
"I could have shot you," she said. Will heard what she meant: I could still shoot you.
Will didn't feel emotionally or mentally equipped to make any sort of decision that might end with him being shot. But then, hadn't he made that decision when he arranged for Hannibal to escape. Had he arranged for Hannibal to escape? He spent so long playing dual roles in the grand opera of Hannibal's life that he wasn't sure, even now, of his own desires.
He wasn't a good actor - certainly not good enough to fool Hannibal - and so he'd become that version of himself: the man who wanted to run away with Hannibal. He'd also been the other version of himself which wanted to see Hannibal in prison for his crimes.
Of course, having Hannibal in prison had solved exactly zero of his problems.
He was pulled from his thoughts as Chiyoh turned the boat to the shore near a little house and he had to drag his own weary body, and Hannibal's, up the path.
It wasn't very far down the shore from Hannibal's house by boat, though the switchback main road and branching dirt lanes would make it hard to reach by car. No one would think to look for them here. The house itself was a simple cottage, weather-proof and with modern amenities, but small. Living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. Not much bigger than Will's Wolf Trap home if you discounted his unused second storey.
Together they hauled Hannibal onto the kitchen table. Chiyoh had a pair of trauma shears which she immediately employed, cutting away Hannibal's drenched, dirty clothing. "Strip," she said.
Moving his arm was a fresh agony every time, but Will managed to wrestle his one remaining shoe off, as well as his shirt. He stood there, foolish, in his trousers and socks until she gestured impatiently at him. "Everything. We need to look for internal bleeding. Also, you are wet."
He could hear her calling him an idiot, even if she didn't say it out loud.
Will was down to his boxers when there was a knock on the front door. He startled, reaching for his trousers, half ready to run, but Chiyoh cut an impatient hand at him and went to answer it. He hovered uselessly next to Hannibal.
The man at the door had a disreputable look to him, but he had a bag full of medical equipment and he didn't seem at all curious about treating two patients in a kitchen. He and Chiyoh talked rapidly in Lithuanian. It occurred to Will that English was probably Chiyoh's third language, at least, which could explain her usually laconic dialogues.
The man did not offer Will his name, nor did he ask Will's. Instead, he began scrubbing his hands in the sink.
Chiyoh handed Will a towel. Will thought he must be in shock, because he stared at it for a very long time, trying to figure out if he should dry his hair with it, press it to his shoulder, or his face, or something else. Eventually he just put the towel on the floor and then sat on the towel. It would make clean-up easier if they didn't have to scrub the whole place down.
Chiyoh, sighing, draped another towel over his shoulders for him to wrap around himself. Will realized he was shaking. From the cold, from the shock, from whatever adrenaline had kept him on his feet after being stabbed twice, he supposed it didn't matter.
Will watched, detached, as the doctor, or vet, or mortician - whatever he was that made him adept at stitching up bodies - did his work on Hannibal. Eventually he bandaged Hannibal up and announced, "Jis gyvens." At Will's blank expression he added, "He will live. Come, sit. Is your turn."
He shot Will up with local anesthetic, cleaned, stitched, and bandaged Will's shoulder and face. Then he prodded at Will all over to check for broken bones or internal bleeding, neither of which Will seemed to have.
In no time at all the doctor was helping Chiyoh move Hannibal into the bedroom. He left a bottle of pills on the bedside table next to Hannibal and, after Chiyoh handed him a thick roll of bills, disappeared out the door again.
"It won't take a genius to figure out who we are," Will pointed out. Half his face was totally numb and speaking was difficult. Swallowing was more complicated than he remembered it being. He wasn't sure he would be able to get the pills down him.
Chiyoh didn't look over at him. "Lithuania has a human trafficking problem," she said, pulling socks onto Hannibal's feet. "Doctors are required for these enterprises."
"You know human traffickers," Will said flatly.
"I know murderers and cannibals." Chiyoh smoothed the blankets down over Hannibal. She looked at Will then and raised one sculpted eyebrow, reminding him that she knew all of his sins and he didn't stand on higher ground.
Will rubbed his tired eyes. "Alright," he said, too weary to argue with the woman who had, in all fairness, saved his ass. Especially when he was in nothing but his unpleasantly damp boxer shorts and a bloody towel.
"If it makes you feel better," Chiyoh said, "Hannibal is not so practical. He has no patience for those who prey on children, though I doubt he has so much as been in a room with a child since his paediatrics rotation."
Hannibal remained silent, unconscious and unhelpful. Cassie Boyle, Marissa Shurr, and Abigail Hobbs had barely been adults by any metric. He had met Randall Tier as a teenager and hadn't been precious about making him a killer. All of them old enough, then. Will wondered where the cut-off point was. Hannibal hadn't shown overmuch interest in the Lost Boys case, except insofar as it had allowed him to pry into Will's own past.
"It doesn't," Will said. Three prison transport guards and two police officers were dead, because of him and Hannibal. Because of the Dragon. Their lives were a very small drop in a very large ocean.
He wasn't good at seeing the future, only the past. The thought of killing a human trafficker wasn't abhorrent to his sensibilities. It was a slippery slope he found himself on now. Once you agreed that some lives were worth less than others, that it was alright to kill them, where else was there to go but down?
"I could kill him," Will said. "The doctor."
"You could not," she said. "You can barely stand." Chiyoh sighed like he was a difficult child she had been saddled with. "What would you do with him, when he was dead? Drag him here to display your kill for Hannibal? No. The roads here are treacherous at night, slippery in the rain. His break line is worn through."
Will stared at her as she fussed with the heating pads tucked in with Hannibal. "You cut his break line?" he said.
"He takes corners very quickly," Chiyoh said blandly.
Probably, Will thought, she was the most dangerous person in the room. Even if Hannibal had been whole, and healthy, she would probably still be more dangerous. Hannibal's peculiar brand of madness made him vulnerable. Chiyoh had ice water in her veins and, as far as Will could tell, cared for no one but her pet murderer.
She turned her attention on him then and he felt like she was stripping layers off him. The drugs had taken the edge off the pain in his shoulder and face but he was tired. He was so tired. Chiyoh blinked, and something like pity washed over her.
"Sleep," she said, and opened a drawer for him. There was clothing there for a man, but Will couldn't get the pyjama bottoms on with only one arm and gravity working against him. Chiyoh had to pull them up for him and he was grateful that she didn't say anything. Will thought vaguely about apologizing, but didn't.
There was only one bed. Will climbed in next to Hannibal and if he could keep his shoulder immobile by resting his hand over Hannibal's steadily beating heart, that was just happy coincidence.
He woke several hours later, in pain, still exhausted physically and mentally. There was a glass of water next to the bed along with a handful of tablets he recognized as Oxycotin. Will took two, wrapped a blanket around himself in lieu of a shirt, and stumbled outside into the cold morning to try and clear his head. There was a small bench that faced out towards the ocean. Will sat on it, too tired to stand.
By his calculations, Hannibal thought he was twenty-two. He was still Il Monstro, but he wasn't the Chesapeake Ripper yet. He wasn't the man who had turned Will's life upside down. Twenty-eight years, gone like a hand wiping away frost on a windowpane. What if they never came back? What if this was the bargain that Will had made, the thing he had stolen from the jaws of death: a new beginning. What if he could make Hannibal into something other than the creature he became?
Chiyoh sat next to Will, a pale ghost on the veranda. She turned to look at him with a cutting, penetrating gaze. "You are thinking about hurting him."
"No," Will said.
"You want to manipulate him. To remake him. To unmake him." She faced the horizon again. "What you are considering is harm."
Will wanted to touch the stitches in his cheek, and clenched the blanket to keep from doing it. "He would understand."
"Yes. Hannibal would do the same. He could not help himself."
"He would forgive me if his memories came back. He might even think it was an interesting experiment."
Chiyoh turned up her collar against the wind, hiding the lower part of her face. "Love makes him stupid. More stupid than most men, I think. He is not used to it."
Will tried not to feel too insulted. "I could make him better."
Chiyoh actually laughed at him then. Her laugh was a bright, girlish giggle. Will wondered if she and Hannibal had ever laughed together when they were young. He couldn't recall having ever heard Hannibal laugh. He could picture Hannibal's smile in perfect, vivid detail, but didn't think he'd ever heard the man laugh.
"No, Will Graham," she said, "you could not. He had already killed, already eaten. A small beast is still a beast. And what would you do? You, who seek out nothing but the evil in men. Who shifts like the wind, as capricious and cruel as a storm. You make decisions without thought, only to justify and explain them later to your own satisfaction. No. You could not change his nature."
It was possibly the least flattering picture anyone had ever painted of him, including Hannibal and Bedelia's insights. Chiyoh got up and left him to turn the puzzle of his own morality over and over in his mind.
x x x
Time dragged on in the little cottage. Hannibal spent most of it in a drugged stupor, and Will suspected that Chiyoh was giving him more meds than he needed just to keep him quiet while he healed. It left Will with nothing to do but watch the endless news cycles.
Manhunt for Dragon Slayers turned into Hannibal the Cannibal and Rogue FBI Agent Still at Large. Then the cycle changed its tune, wondering if anyone could have survived such a fall - base jumpers, high divers, doctors, and physicists all weighing in. The coast guard was interviewed. No one wanted to be the first one to say it but the prevailing theory seemed to be that their corpses had been been washed out to sea. Then Donald Trump was secretly recorded calling Hillary Clinton a cunt. There was a shooting in a heavily populated mall. No one cared about Hannibal any more.
Will stood in the doorway of the bedroom, watching Chiyoh tend to Hannibal. After spending who-only-knew how long in a drugged stupor while his body repaired itself, Hannibal was finally with it enough to wave away Chiyoh with her handful of vitamins and painkillers.
"No more narcotics," Hannibal said, pushing her hand away. His voice was still slurred from the last batch. "My head is clouded enough without them."
"You still do not remember?" Chiyoh asked.
"Moments. A few bars of a composition, the scent of something sweetly fevered I cannot name, a long, dark road I am driving on while someone sleeps in the passenger seat. My hands putting someone together. My hands taking someone apart. An endless parade of rotation shifts. Dancing in different rooms with different women. A man eating his own face. The small moments in life you don't realize you remember until they are all you have left."
She hesitated by his bed. Then, "You should not hear stories of your past. You should remember them on your own."
It's not what she had wanted to say.
Chiyoh put the vitamins and water on the table next to Hannibal, keeping the opioids. "Take these," she said in English. She switched to Japanese and told him, " Kare o shin'yō shite wa ikemasen."
Will stayed where he was, leaning against the doorframe. "Rude," he said, glancing at Hannibal, hoping for some recognition, some connection. Hannibal stared blankly back at him and Will's stomach sank.
Will didn't move when Chiyoh had to walk past him, something he deeply regretted when she didn't turn and make herself small in order to pass him. She checked the wound in his shoulder with her own instead. Not hard, but enough to hurt.
"She doesn't like me," Will said, not moving his face very much when he spoke. The sutures had come out of his cheek although the wound was still vivid and bright on his skin. It ached when he talked, constantly reminding him it was there.
"She doesn't like most people," Hannibal said, with the hint of a smile on his lips. "She is a singular girl." He sighed. "Woman, I suppose. Will you sit with me? You've both been avoiding me."
Will came and sat on the edge of the bed. He hadn't been avoiding Hannibal so much as Chiyoh was unwilling to leave them alone in a room together while Hannibal was conscious. Hannibal's eyes were unclouded and Will wondered how much of the way he spoke was from the medication, and how much of it was his accent before he had spent several decades in America.
For a while they just sat together, not looking at each other, so much as looking each other over. Hannibal searching for something familiar, Will supposed. For his own part, Will was trying to reconcile the man in front of him with the knowledge that things were very, very different.
Chiyoh was diligent about keeping him sponged down, but he still smelled of sweat and sickness. She didn't bother to shave him and he had grown quite the salt and pepper beard. It looked soft. Will wanted to touch it. he kept his hands in his lap so he wouldn't be tempted, fingers twisting around his wedding ring.
"Do you think it would hurt if you tell me how long we've known each other?" Hannibal asked at last.
"About five years," Will said.
Hannibal cocked his head to the side. "Part of you is very upset by my condition. But another part of you is excited by it."
There was no wonder he had gone into psychiatry, Will thought. He'd wondered if poking around brains had come later in Hannibal's life, once he got bored poking around bodies. Apparently not.
"Yes," Will admitted. "You are unmoored in time. The teacup has come together, long before it was ever smashed."
Conflicting emotions chased their way across Hannibal's face. Frustration, intrigue, a small measure of desire. "We knew each other very well, didn't we?" Hannibal said.
"We were...intimate," Will said, slowly, tasting what he was saying to make sure it was true.
"My body recognizes the scent of you, a song where I know the words but have forgotten the melody. I know without saying that you are important, even vital, but I could not explain why. And now we are like strangers, and you are left to hold my secrets, even from me."
Will had to look away from him then. "Why did you want to know how long we'd been..." He wanted to say friends. He wanted to say enemies. He settled for, "Acquaintances." He didn't trust himself not to start lying to Hannibal. He wanted to start laying down the foundations for a different history and a new future.
Hannibal turned his hands over on the bed, exposing the skin of his forearms and the two long scars stretching from elbow to wrist. "These aren't that old, and I wanted to know if you knew anything about them. Did I try to kill myself?"
Will could feel himself staring covetously at the pale scars and made himself look away. In all their time together he'd never got a good look at them. He wondered if Hannibal had done that on purpose, denying him.
There were so many lies he could tell. Yes, you tried to kill yourself out of remorse for what you had done. Yes, you tried to kill yourself because you were caught and convicted as a serial killer - so don't stay on that path. Yes, yes, yes, change your ways or destroy yourself.
"No," Will said.
Hannibal wasn't as good at hiding his emotions as a twenty-something as he would become. Will could see relief on his face. It clearly troubled him to think that he not only had become desperate enough to attempt suicide, but had also failed in the attempt. There was also something else, something that pulled at Will. Hannibal trusted him. He was ready to believe what Will told him. Without reason, or history, or logic. It was the same thing that had led them to the kitchen, all those years ago, when Hannibal believed they could run away together. Will wanted to destroy it, and in equal measures he wanted to protect it. This was a Hannibal who thought he hung the moon. He remembered this feeling, knowing this man thought so highly of him. He remembered it without the baggage of knowing Hannibal was the Chesapeake Ripper.
Will scrubbed his eyes with one hand. Any plan to mould Hannibal needed to be thought out, not his usual spur-of-the-moment work. He had to decide on his end goal and work for it.
"Another battle wound then," Hannibal said with audible satisfaction. "To go with the gunshot wound, the stab wound in my thigh, the other in my calf, and whatever had happened to my back that I can feel scar tissue pulling there when I moved in certain ways."
He was watching Will very closely, searching his face for clues. Will kept his expression as neutral as possible.
"Would you tell me what did happen if I asked you?" Hannibal asked.
"No," Will said. He felt as though their entire relationship had become him denying Hannibal. "But you didn't try to kill yourself. You told me suicide is the enemy."
Hannibal raised his eyebrows. "Are you suicidal, Will?"
The sound that came grating out of Will was the dark cousin of a laugh. "The short answer is no," he said.
Suddenly he was angry. It rolled over him in a sickening wave. He could feel his face flush with it, his breath coming too fast.
Will got up off the bed, pacing, trying to bleed off some of the awful anger. "I was the one who pulled us off the cliff," he said, wanting to wound Hannibal with it, the way he was wounded. "I tried to kill us both. You probably won't remember that, even if you remember everything else. Time of the accident, and all that. You'll never remember the most important moment of our lives." He reached the door and his hand clenched on the doorframe, holding on tightly. "You leave me alone to clean up the mess, every time. You hurt me and just vanish."
"Please," Hannibal said sarcastically, pushing himself up into a more seated position, "tell me how hard this is for you. I'm sure I wouldn't know, since I don't remember half of my own life." Hannibal's expression was intense and brutal as a fall from a cliff. "Why did you try to kill us, Will? Since you seem so certain I won't remember on my own."
Will couldn't look at him any more. "Because I know you, I see you. How could I not?" Will asked.
"But you didn't push me," Hannibal said, sounding confused. "You fell also."
Will's face did something complicated. It wasn't a smile. It wasn't not a smile. "We tried the other alternatives already. I thought that whatever happened, we should do it together." Will tapped his knuckles on the door. "Get some rest," he said, and left.