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Title: Win Or Lose
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham
Fandom: Hannibal
Rating: PG-13
Table: writers_choice
Prompt: #411, Win or lose
Author's Note: Sequel to "Say Something."
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.


Will sat still, his senses coiled tightly, waiting for whatever Hannibal would say about his plan. He knew that it wasn't the safest thing for him, but he didn't know what else to do.

He had to catch this killer. If he didn't, then more young men who looked like him would die, and their faces would keep haunting his dreams as well as his waking hours. He didn't want to leave this case unsolved and live the rest of his life with those images.

Hannibal sighed softly, lifting his gaze to Will's face.

"Will, do you realize just how dangerous it is for you to use yourself as bait for this killer?" he asked, his voice very soft. "Do you not know that it's you this man wants? He's proven that by killing men who resemble you."

"Yes, I know that," Will said in a choked voice. "Do you think I haven't considered that, Hannibal? I'm not taking this lightly. I'm scared to death. But I don't want to keep being haunted by these deaths and feeling responsible for them, either. And I do."

Hannibal raised his brows, frowning at Will's words. "Why do you feel responsible, Will? This isn't your fault. It's the fault of the man committing the crimes."

"I know that." Will shook his head, feeling frustrated at his inability to convey how he felt through words. "But I .... I feel like it's somehow my fault that he's doing this. That there's something about me that's under his skin, that's making him do this."

Hannibal was regarding him soberly, silently.

"You may be right about that, but it still doesn't put you at fault for the murders," he said quietly, shaking his head. "You have to give up that notion, Will. You can't blame yourself for the killer's actions in every case you take on. Not with the gift that you have."

Will sighed, nodding in agreement. "I know I can't. But this one hits close to home, Hannibal. They all look like me. That's ..... it's terrifying."

"I can understand that, Will." Hannibal stretched his hand across the table, taking Will's fingers in his own and bending them back and forth gently. It was a gesture that he made when he seemed to be particularly worried about Will in some way.

"But what I can't understand is you choosing to try to sacrifice yourself." Hannibal's dark eyes were on his face again, as if the other man's gaze was inexorably drawn to him. "You have to remember that it isn't just you who's concerned with this. Not any more."

What did Hannibal mean by that?

The meaning hit Will in just a few seconds. Hannibal meant that he wasn't alone in this; he didn't only have himself to consider now. Hannibal meant that because the two of them were together, a couple, he had to take Hannibal's feelings into account, as well.

"I know you have a say in this," Will said, keeping his voice soft. "I'm not shutting you out. But in the end, it's my decision, Hannibal. It has to be."

How could he make Hannibal understand? This wasn't anyone else's decision to make. They could give him their opinions, express their feelings, but in the end, he was the one who had to make the choice of whether to pursue this plan or not.

Because he was the only one who could do it.

And because all of these young men who had been killed looked like him. They had all somehow become surrogates for him in this killer's twisted mind, and Will knew that there would be more killings until the murderer had what he wanted.

He wanted a chance at Will. He wanted to get to his ultimate victim, to make Will his prey. The only way to stop him was to give him what he wanted most.

He wasn't stupid, Will told himself firmly. He wasn't going to sacrifice himself to this madman. He'd be kept safe; he would have backup all around him. He wasn't going to walk into some kind of trap alone. He was a lot smarter than that, and so were the people he worked with.

No one was going to leave him unprotected. Jack would make sure of that. His boss might only care about him as a tool to help solve crimes, but Jack wouldn't want to lose him. Not this way. Jack would make sure he had all the protection he needed.

This was the only way. They all knew that.

If they were going to catch this killer, they had to take some risks. And Will was willing to take the biggest risk of all, if it would put this bastard behind bars for good.

The risks to himself seemed minimal compared to the good they would do if they caught this killer. And he wasn't going to be alone, he told himself again. He would be protected. He would be safe. The risk involved was outweighed by the probable outcome.

They really had no choice. He had no choice. No matter what Hannibal said, he had to do this. Win or lose, no matter what it did to their relationship in the long run, he had to go through with this, even if his lover might disapprove.

"Please, Hannibal," he whispered, his voice strained. "I have to do this."

After what seemed like an eternity, Hannibal nodded, then sighed. "I know you do, Will," he said, his voice sounding soft -- and a little defeated. "I will not stop you."

In a way, he had wanted Hannibal to stop him, to put up more of an argument. But if he had, then Will would have found a way to override him. Because, at the heart of the matter, he would feel responsible for this unless he managed to put a stop to it.

He was the only one who could do this, and he knew it. Everyone around him knew it. They might be afraid for him, but they weren't going to stop him. They knew that they couldn't. There was really no use in anyone trying; his mind was already made up.

Win or lose, he was going to see this through to the bitter end.

"Thank you, Hannibal," he said quietly, meaning every word he was saying. "I know this isn't easy for you. But it's something I've got to do. I've got to take the risk. If I don't, it'll haunt me forever. And I may never be able to forgive myself for running away."

Hannibal gazed at him, his fingers tightening on Will's hand. Will squeezed the other man's hand, wishing that he could convey his feelings with words, but knowing that a touch would have to do. He hoped that the touch would be enough -- at least until he could find the right words.