Will lays his hand on a Bible and promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
He thinks about Hannibal’s God as he says it. The one who drops church roofs on his worshippers, and feels powerful. Wonders if that God will drop a roof on him. He imagines Hannibal’s face, lit up with pure delight through a cloud of rubble if the roof of the courthouse were to fall in on Will as he lies with his hand on the Good Book.
Will can promise to tell the truth, or at least the truth as seen by someone with boundaries of self as chronically blurred as his are, which is to say probably someone’s truth, at least. He can also promise to tell nothing but the truth, because he dislikes lying, and he knows Hannibal does too. It shouldn’t matter what Hannibal likes or dislikes, of course, but it does. So he won’t lie.
But the whole truth? Will couldn’t tell that even if he wanted to. Even if he could piece together the story— locate a beginning to is entanglement with Hannbal Lecter that wasn’t his birth, or Hannibal’s birth, or the beginning of the universe, and then an end that isn’t the imagined miasma of blood and sex hovering constantly on the edge of his consciousness— the thought of telling The Whole truth, of laying himself and Hannibal bare in a courtroom, makes him feel hot and half-crazed with possessive anger. Nobody else could ever understand Hannibal. And Will doesn’t want them to.
So Will stands in the witness box and tells the court how his psychiatrist drove him insane. They can draw their own conclusions on exactly when Will’s insanity started and ended; the important part is that they get the impression that Will was driven insane because Hannibal is insane. On a good day of testimony, the jurors and the public are so convinced of Hannibal’s insanity that Will can feed off of them, allow their certainty to wash over him and feed back into his testimony.
On a bad day he stutters and can’t figure out where to direct his eyes. There’s only one place they go naturally, and the moment Will allows himself to look at Hannibal, he knows he’s lost.
Freddie Lounds knows it too, damn her. And she also seems to know exactly how to capture Will in a crowd, after the sessions let out. It’s even starting to seem like the other journalists are starting to give her pride of place; she’s the one who can reliably get a rise out of Will, and thus a better headline for everyone, so she always seems to lead the pack.
Will had tried to slip out the back today, but there really is no “back” with a trial of this level of sensationalism. Reporters are everywhere. And Freddie is standing in front of him, wearing a crisp fall jacket and holding a microphone, looking somehow both terrifying and mischievous at the same time. A crowd of random onlookers has gathered, too.
Will feels sick. He wishes he could be sick; at least projectile vomiting would probably scatter the crowd a little bit. Though he doubts it would dissuade Freddie.
“If the jury finds Hannibal Lecter to be nor criminally responsible on the grounds of insanity,” she’s saying, “He will likely spend the rest of his life in the Baltime Hospital for the Criminally Insane— the same facility he sent you to. Would you go visit him, Mr. Graham? For old times’ sake?”
Something in him rebels at the thought of saying no, but Will is tired and hungry and feels like he might simply dissolve into a puddle of other people’s emotions right there on the sidewalk and he can’t think, can’t figure out what he should say or do, and that’s when a kindly, slightly frazzled voice breaks through the noise of the crowd and a small hand grabs his and pulls him to the side.
“Honey!” says the voice. “Are you all done for the day? Did you remember to pick up dinner for tonight?”
Will blinks. He feels slightly dizzy. He’s being pulled at a decent running pace through the crowd by the hand. Perhaps he’s being kidnapped. He finds that he doesn’t much mind the idea of being kidnapped at this exact moment, as long as he ends up somewhere far away from Freddie Lounds.
Bodies and buildings whip past as he follows where he’s being led. It feels rather nice, to not have to think about anything for a moment. No scheming. No questions. No Freddie. No Hannibal.
When he finally realizes he’s stopped running, he’s standing in a parking lot in front of a blonde woman with a cheerful, plump face. She’s smiling at him somewhat ruefully.
“Sorry about that,” she says. “You just really looked like you needed an escape route.”
Will blinks. They are alone, and his head is starting to clear. It feels like breathing fresh air for the first time all day. He rubs at the scar on his forehead; he can’t tell if it’s the scar that aches, or his entire head. “I did,” he admits. “Uh— thanks.”
“No problem,” she says easily. “I don’t usually follow that kind of stuff, but own a shop a few blocks down, and the courthouse is in between work and my parking spot. I’ve seen you getting mobbed a few times now. Everyone wants a piece of you, eh?”
Will winces. The analogy is more accurate than he’d like; he feels like he’s giving bits of himself away, piece by piece, every time he speaks about Hannibal in public. He doesn’t want to think about what it means that those pieces feel precious not because they belong to him, but because they belong to him and Hannibal.
He doesn’t want to talk about it, but for the first time in a while, he’s standing across from someone that he’s pretty sure doesn’t actually want him to. It feels different from talking to Jack, or Alana. Their concern is invasive, needy. The woman who’s just rescued him genuinely doesn’t seem to care about Hannibal’s trial all that much.
“Do you actually need dinner?” he says. “I have more food than I could eat in years. Everyone seems to think that the best way of supporting me at the moment is to send over tupperwares full of homemade meals to my hotel room. They think I have traumatic memories associated with cooking, for some reason.”
The woman just stares at him for a moment, then bursts out laughing. She throws her head back and cackles, and Will finds himself grinning a little bit along with her. It feels nice. “I can’t imagine why they’d think that,” she says, and then, “I’m Molly. Do you?”
“Not any more than I have traumatic memories associated with tupperware meals in hotel rooms,” says Will, and Molly has no idea what he’s talking about but she doesn’t seem to mind. She’s jangling her car keys a bit in her hand.
“Thank you for the offer,” she says. “But I have a son. I have to go pick him up from his baseball practice in a few minutes. I can drop you off somewhere if you need, though.”
“My hotel isn’t far,” says Will, and circles around to the passenger side of the car. He feels oddly light, in a way he hasn’t for years. It’s the feeling of using his gift for something simple, he realizes; a human interaction that doesn’t feel like peeling his skin off layer by layer. He doesn’t need superpowered empathy to know that Molly likes him, an easy and straightforward feeling. He wants to keep talking to her.
He gives her the address of the hotel he stays in when he doesn’t have time to drive back to Wolf Trap in between sessions in the courtroom. There’s dog hair on the passenger seat of the car, and it clings to his uncomfortable dress pants. As she pulls out of the parking lot, he says, “I’m serious about the dinner, by the way. You, uh, don’t have to eat it with me, but I can give you a nice lasagne for you and your boy. Pretty sure someone in the lab made it. It’s an authentic FBI lasagne.”
“An authentic FBI lasagne,” she says, and now she’s glancing at him sideways in a way that Will recognizes, she’s actually flirting with him, and he feels an answering flutter of nerves and nearly keels over at the realization that he’s not nervous that Molly is going to stab him or fuck with his head or abandon him to rot in jail. He’s nervous in the way other people get nervous when interacting with a potential romantic partner.
It feels pure. Enticing. He could live here. He wants to. For the first time in years, he’s not thinking about Hannibal.
“Okay, I admit we were probably going to go to Burger King on the way home,” Molly says. “So I accept, but only if you’ll come eat it with us.”
“Of course,” says Will, and smiles at her.
“I’m a bit out of town,” Molly warns. “I like my space. Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” says Will. “That’s perfect.”
Wally Foster jumps in the backseat of the car with barely a glance for Will, who has now collected a bag of we’re-so-sorry-your-cannibal-psychiatrist-drove-you-crazy sympathy food. “Hi,” he says, and then, “Mom, can I get a hamster? Richard has one.”
“I’ll think about it,” laughs Molly, and then says, “Wally, this is Will. He’s bringing some dinner for us tonight. Will, this is my son Wally.” She grins at Will lopsidedly. “Molly and Wally, I know. We didn’t really think through the whole rhyming thing when we named him Walter.”
“Not the worst unintentional rhyme I’ve heard recently,” says Will, and thinks that he might actually be in love with Molly when her face clouds with confusion for a few seconds before she finally realizes what rhyme he’s referring to.
She doesn’t care, he thinks giddily. She genuinely doesn’t give a shit that I’ve eaten human flesh and carry around hundreds of deadly criminals in my mind.
Molly has a small house on the edge of town, a lot that could be described as suburban but feels more rural than it should have a right to. “We’ve been here ever since Wally’s father died,” she says as she opens the door. Information offered that was not requested, and Will feels the urge to respond in kind. “It’s a little cramped, but it’s good for us for now. I’d love to move to a big house in the country someday.” She takes the container full of lasagne from Will, and leads him into the kitchen.
It’s small and cramped, but clean; mismatched utensils sit in jars, and old dented pans are lined up along a counter. If there is anything to Will’s colleagues’ conjecture that he has been avoiding kitchens and cooking of late— and Will would not admit that there is— but purely hypothetically, this is exactly the kitchen to make him feel safe. Nothing in here reminds him of Hannibal.
Molly transfers three portions of lasagne to plates and microwaves them, and they sit at a square wooden table in the living area just off of the kitchen.
“Are you going to have sex with my mom?” Asks Wally, his legs swinging slightly beneath the chair.
Will manages not to choke on his food, and Molly swats Wally’s arm lightly across the table. “Honey,” she says, and then, “Sorry. He’s just at that age.”
“You can if you want,” says Wally. “This lasagne is better than hers.”
Will can feel amusement mixed in with Molly’s embarrassment, so he allows the grin fighting its way onto his face to show through a little. He doesn’t say “thanks,” but he’s beginning to suspect she might not find it presumptuous if he did.
“That’s because it’s got meat in it,” Molly says. “I usually cook vegetarian at home,” she explains to Will, “Not strict about it. This is just a special treat.”
Will feels a glow of relief he hadn’t realized he was in need of. A vegetarian home. He likes the idea. He suddenly wishes the lasagne didn’t have the meat.
After dinner, when the small kitchen has been cleaned and Wally is off to bed with a book, Will and Molly end up in Molly’s bedroom with the door closed.
“So you want to have sex, then?” Molly asks with a smile, because she’s the kind of person who can just ask that.
And Will is the kind of person who doesn’t need to ask that, because he knows, and damn it feels good to know something harmless about someone else.
“Yep,” he says, and pulls her in close, and Molly grins and kisses him.
And afterwards, when they’re sweaty and sated and a condom is tied in the garbage because normal people do things like keep condoms in the drawer beside the bed, Molly comes back from the bathroom and flops down on the bed like she expects Will to be beside her.
Will swallows. He wants to. He wants to lie down beside her, close his eyes, let his mind go.
“C’mon,” she says, patting the sheets. “You’re not going to go, are you? I didn’t take you for the fuck-and-run type.” She’s smiling, though, and Will is almost certain that if he insisted that he needed to go home, she wouldn’t be offended.
Then he thinks about taking a bus from wherever the hell Molly lives, and sleeping by himself in his salt-crusted hotel sheets. He would probably wank thinking about Hannibal when he got back, because he’s been doing that every night, and he’s not going to stop now.
Except if he slept here, he would stop. For at least one night. An entire night of not thinking about Hannibal.
“I… have nightmares,” he says carefully. “I’m not the best bedmate.”
“It’s fine, I sleep like the dead,” says Molly.
Will takes a deep breath, and lies down. Molly smiles and throws an arm over him. She’s sweet and solid and real, which is an unusual trait in Will’s sleeping partners.
“I’m more used to sleeping with the undead,” he admits, because he wants to tell her something important. Something secret. Something that even Hannibal doesn’t know: how the dead haunt him, how he wakes up next to them with their big dead vibrant eyes staring into his. How he worries that if it ever stopped, if he ever has a sleep undisturbed by ghosts, he worries that that would be the night that there is no more separation between him and Hannibal.
Being haunted is the only thing that separates them, any more.
“The living make better company,” says Molly sleepily. “You’ll get used to it.”