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Title: Coping Mechanisms
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham
Fandom: Hannibal
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sequel to "On the Verge."
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the lovely Hannibal Lecter or Will Graham, unfortunately, just borrowing them for a while. Please do not sue.


Maybe Hannibal was right. Maybe he just needed some time off.

It could be that these visions he was having were just the product of overwork, of seeing way too many dead bodies, of having to get into the minds of too many serial killers.

Maybe it was finally starting to take a toll on him. He'd known that it would, eventually; there was no way he could do what he did and not be affected by it.

He was finally starting to crack up, finally starting to give in to the pressures that seemed to be looming around him on a constant basis. This was what insanity looked like, Will thought, glancing into the bathroom mirror as he pushed his damp hair out of his face.

No, he wasn't going insane. He didn't think he was that far gone yet. And if he could take a few steps back and manage to cope with all this, then he would be okay.

He still hadn't asked Jack for any time off, but he'd have to do that soon. He couldn't keep going like this; anyone could see that he was starting to unravel at the seams.

Even Jack could see that, if he'd ever bother to look.

Jack wasn't really the problem, but it still annoyed Will to think that his boss saw him as some kind of Energizer Bunny. Just put in fresh batteries, and he'd keep going and going and going.

His empathy wasn't like that, and Jack should know it. Already he could feel himself slipping when he was trying to get into a killer's mind; he never seemed to be able to make the kind of connection he used to, never seemed to quite be able to understand the motivation behind the killing.

Before, he'd always been able to do that. And now that he couldn't, it frightened him. Was he losing the one thing that made him special, made him important?

He didn't care about being important. That wasn't the issue here.

He just didn't want to lose the one thing that made him able to help people, that was all. If he could no longer get into the minds of killers, then he would be useless at his job.

Oh, he'd still be a good teacher. No one could doubt that. He woudl still be a good profiler. He'd always been efficient at those jobs, and he could continue to do them well.

But this ability gave him an edge, gave him a way to help people that no one else had. Nobody could do what he did; nobody else could burrow into the minds of killers and find out why they did what they did, their motivations behind their crimes. It was, in effect, a shortcut to finding and catching murderers.

If he lost that, then his effectiveness as a profiler would diminish, too. He'd still be good at what he did, but he would no longer have that extra edge, that ability to go from zero to sixy so quickly.

Maybe that ability was getting to him in ways that he couldn't cope with, Will thought with a sigh. Maybe losing it would be a good thing, and not a tragedy.

He had to get some coping mechanisms in place, though, to process the inevitable. If he was going to slowly lose his empathic ability, then he'd be saying goodbye to something that had been a part of him for a long time, and it would be wrenching to lose it, as much as he'd sometimes hated what he was.

He'd hated his empathy when he was younger because he'd felt that it made him a freak, set him apart. He'd resented what he was for most of his life.

It was only when he'd realized that he could use his empathy to help people that he had reluctantly started to embrace it, even though he had to admit that he still resented being set apart from everyone else because of it.

But at the same time, that ability had gone a long way to making him the person he now was.

Now, it had become such an ingrained part of him, and of the job that he did, that the thought of losing it was terrifying. Funny, that. It seemed as though the tables had completely turned.

He had wanted to lose his empathy for so long, cursing it, hating it for so many years. Now that he was finally starting to become comfortable with it, to feel that it was a part of him that actually made a difference and did some good, he was worried about having it slip away from him.

Well, at this point, he needed to develop some coping mechanisms, just in case that ability did did slip away, and he had to learn to deal with not having that part of himself any more.

And he had no idea how to put those coping mechanisms into place.

He didn't even have any idea what kind of mechanism he would use to cope if his empathy suddenly disappeared. He would just have to wait and see what happened, and see how he dealt with it.

Talking to Hannibal would really be the only thing he could do. Somehow, he couldn't help thinking that Hannibal would be able to hold out some hope to him, give him a rock to cling to.

Hannibal seemed to be his rock in a lot of ways lately, and Will couldn't help wondering if that was good for him. For a person who had always made it a point never to let anyone get too close to him, or to see into his heart and soul, he was letting Hannibal become dangerously .... necessary.

But it felt as though Hannibal was the only person who was shining a light into the darkness, or holding out a hand to him when he most needed it. Hannibal was the only one who was there.

As long as he was there, then Will was going to keep turning to him. He had nowhere else to go, no one else to talk to -- and he wasn't willing to give up the one coping mechanism that seemed to work for him.

Even if it turned out that relying on Hannibal only gave him one more issue that he had to cope with.