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Title: Winter Kills
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham
Fandom: Hannibal
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sequel to "Zugzwang."
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.


"How does it feel to be free again, Will?"

Will almost smiled at the question; Hannibal should know the answer to that one. He should say just what the other man expected to hear.

"It feels ...." He shrugged, unsure of just what to say, how to go on. "It feels .... the obvious word would be 'free,' but that doesn't quite fit. I mean, I'm obviously free, aren't I? But that's not what I mean. It feels like I've .... been freed from some of the other concerns I used to have."

"And what would those concerns be?" Hannibal asked, one eyebrow rising in a curious expression. "I'm sure that being in prison changed you, Will, but just how much?"

Will shrugged again, trying to give the impression of nonchalance.

He had to be very careful now; he couldn't afford to let Hannibal see even the slightest chink of weakness in him. He had to be cautious about everything he did and said.

The slightest slip could alert Hannibal to his treachery, and if that happened, he doubted that his life would be worth much -- or that it would last for much longer. Hannibal had already proven that Will's life meant nothing to him by framing him and sending hm to prison.

He would make this monster pay for that, he vowed silently. Forcing his mind back to the conversation at hand, he considered his next words before he spoke again.

"It feels .... liberating, for lack of a better word," he said slowly. "And you're right -- jail did change me a lot." He faced Hannibal squarely, looking into those fathomless dark eyes and holding back a shudder at the utter emptiness he saw there. "You changed me."

Hannibal shook his head with a sadness that Will knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was feigned. "Will, you aren't still holding on to the fallacy that I framed you."

Oh, it wasn't a fallacy. It was the clear, unvarnished truth.

But he couldn't say that now, couldn't let Hannibal know how much he was utterly despised by the young man sitting across from him. He had to make Hannibal believe that he had changed in all of the ways that Hannibal had hoped for.

Slowly, he shook his head, hoping that he looked and sounded believable. "Not for the reasons that I was thinking you did at first," he murmured, the words almost a challenge.

There. He wanted to see what Hannibal would have to say to that. He had thrown down a gauntlet; now it was up to Hannibal to pick it up and accept the challenge, to move this duel forward. He'd played his cards; his hand was on the table. Time for Hannibal to reveal his cards.

"It was a long, cold winter for you in there, was it not, Will?" The words were quiet, whispered.

Will nodded, his gaze not wavering from Hannibal's. "Yes, it was," he answered, his own voice just as quiet and hushed. "Winter kills, Hannibal. It killed something in me .... And it brought out something else. I know what it is now to live with darkness closing in around me."

Hannibal nodded, a small smile curving his lips, as though Will had said exactly what he wanted to hear. Will almost held his breath waiting for his next words.

"That was what you were intended to discover, Will," he said, his voice almost hypnotic in its intensity. "No one can know the heights that they are capable of until they have reached the depths. That winter you lived through was not in vain, I assure you."

No, Will told himself. It definitely hadn't been in vain.

That long, cold, hopeless winter had shown him what hopelessness was like -- and it had taught him that there was a spark in him that couldn't be extinguished.

It had shown him that he had a toughness within him that he hadn't counted on, an indomitable spirit that couldn't be crushed or conquered. And now that he was a free man again, that spirit was going to rise up and fight against the injustices that had been perpetrated against him.

But not in the way that this monster wanted him to fight. No, he would battle those injustices in his own way -- and he would emerge the victor.

"I've discovered that I don't much care about the outside world as much as I thought I did," he said, his own words surprising him. He didn't mean them, of course; they were merely a cover for the trap he and Jack were so carefully laying for this devil to fall into.

It was Hannibal that he didn't care anything about, not the rest of the world. It was Hannibal who he wanted to see suffer, Hannibal who should pay for his own crimes.

And he would. Will would see to that, if it was the last thing he ever did.

"So, you have found that darkness can be much more easily embraced than light." Hannibal sounded so self-satisfied that Will wanted to spit in his face.

Hannibal wanted him to embrace that darkness, to become some kind of disciple, an acolyte to evil. Well, that was the impression he would give. He would make Hannibal believe that he was falling under the aegis of that evil. He was a good enough actor to pull it off.

At least, he hoped he was. He would have to pull out all the stops, try his damnedest to make this monster believe that he was turning into a monster himself.

His entire being rebelled at the thought, but he had no choice.

His lfie might depend on it. He was in too deeply now to get out, or to even think of pulling back. It was all or nothing, and he was going for the win.

He looked directly into Hannibal's eyes, letting his lips curve in a smile that he hoped the other man would believe was utterly sincere.

"Winter kills," he whispered. "But it also creates .... in its own image."