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Title: On the Verge
Pairing: Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham
Author's Note: Sequel to "A Grip on Reality."
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.
***"I can't deal with seeing that again."
Will's voice was very low, barely more than a whisper. He didn't look over at Hannibal; he didn't need to so much as glance at the other man to know what he would see if he looked up.
Hannibal was sitting directly across from him, his hands in his lap, his legs crossed, his intense gaze focused on Will. There was a slight furrow between his brows, as though he was thinking hard, concentrating on what Will had just told him.
"Will, your empathy is playing tricks on you," he said at last, shaking his head. "You have to realise that the visions you're seeing are not premonitions of your own death. Rather, I think that they are visions of yourself in the same place as your victims. You are empathizing with them far too much."
"Then how do I stop myself from doing it?" Will asked, his voice hoarse. "I cant take seeing those visions any more, Hannibal. It's getting to be too much for me."
He took a deep breath, continuing in a whisper. "I feel like if I see myself lying there dead in a pool of blood on more time, I'll lose it. I'll go completely off my rocker, and I don't know if I can come back from that."
Hannibal shook his head, his brow furrowing again.
"Will, you aren't giving yourself enough credit," he said, his voice softer now. "You are a much stronger person than you think you are. This is not going to destroy you."
"How do you know that?" For some reason, Will felt unaccountably irritated by Hannibal's words. "You barely know me. You might have been talking to me for a while, but you don't know what I'm really like."
Hannibal shook his head, a small smile curving his lips. "That's where you are wrong, Will," he said, his voice still soft, almost a murmur. "I know you quite well by now. We have been talking about your psyche, about your feelings. I believe that I know you better than most people do."
Will had to concede the truth in those words. Hannibal did know him better than most, even more so than people who had known him for years, like Jack Crawford.
But then, Jack had never taken the time to get to know him. Hannibal had. Jack didn't really want to get inside his head, to find out what made him tick, to know how he felt. Jack just wanted him to solve crimes.
Jack wanted a pet freak that he could call a friend. But he didn't want to know that person.
Maybe that was why he always came to Hannibal when he felt as though he might be on the verge of falling apart. Because this man knew him better than anyone, and could offer him insights.
But now, there didn't seem to be any insight that anyone could give him. No one else saw the visions he did; no one else felt the panic that rendered him speechless, made it difficult for him to breathe. No one else knew what this felt like, because no one else had experienced it along with him.
He wouldn't want anyone to experience that feeling, Will told himself. It was horrible, gazing down at a dead body and seeing his own face there instead of the actual victim's features.
Nobody should have to see that and feel what he did. He wouldn't wish that on his worst enemy; it was a feeling that no human being should have to deal with.
So why was it being forced on him? Was it his empathy, trying to tell him that if he kept doing this job, he would find that he would end up being one of the victims, rather than the investigator? Or was it his empathy telling him that he needed to back away for other reasons, such as the one that Hannibal had just given him?
It made sense, Will told himself, turning Hannibal's words over and over in his mind. His empathy could be warning him to back away, telling him that he was feeling too much for these victims.
How was he supposed to turn off his emotions and not feel? That was impossible.
He couldn't look at those faces and not feel for the people behind them. He couldn't help it that his emotions reached out to them, even though he knew that they were unreachable.
All he could do for them was to try and find out who had killed them, and why. Sometimes he failed at that, but sometimes he did succeed. And the successes made up for the failures.
At least he thought they did. He hoped they did. For every person whose death he didn't unravel, there were two whose killers he found, or at least helped to find. That had to count for something, didn't it? It had to mean something, or else what he did for Jack was meaningless.
"What you do helps people, Will." Hannibal's voice broke into his thoughts, making him raise his head to look at the other man. "It helps their families to find closure."
Hannibal's voice was even softer as he continued, a question in his tone. "But does it help you? Or does it only give you an added burden on top of all the others that you have to carry?"
Will didn't know how to answer that question. There was really nothing that he could say.
Was Hannibal right? Was his empathy trying to tell him to distance himself more, to back away from his work as much as he could and still keep doing it? Or was it something else entirely?
Will didn't know what to think at this point. He only knew that he needed to clear his head, to stop thinking about this for a while, to try and relax. He needed to push all of this away, even if only for a brief time.
"I believe that you need to take a break from your work for Jack, Will." Hannibal's tone was brisk, businesslike. It had lost that soft, intimate timbre; Will knew that indicated that this session was nearly over, and that Hannibal wanted them back on more of a doctor-and-patient footing. "You need to ask him if you can take at least a few days off."
Will nodded slowly, wondering if Jack would let him do that, or if his boss would insist that he keep going to crime scenes and doing his job, even though he was obviously starting to burn out.
Jack would have to let him have some personal time. There were no two ways about it; if he didn't take some time away from work, he was going to not only burn out, but probably drive himself insane.
"I'll see what I can do," he murmured, getting up and heading for the door. The session was over.
With his hand on the doorknob, he stopped, then turned to the other man. "Hannibal? Just how am I supposed to get Jack to give me some time off? Any pointers about that?"
Hannibal had followed him into the foyer; he tilted his head to the side slightly, smiling at Will. "I believe that you know Jack and his work habits far better than I do, Will. It is up to you to ask for the time; asking me obliquely to help you with that will only relieve you of the decision of whether or not to do so."
Damn. Hannibal knew him far too well, Will thought. With a nod and a murmured goodbye, he opened the door, closing it behind him as he left the house and walked slowly to his car.
Yeah, he'd get around to asking Jack for that time off. Tomorrow. Or the next day. Well, sometime.
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