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Title: Zugzwang
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham
Fandom: Hannibal
Rating: PG-13
Table: Otherwordly Challenge, tv_universe
Prompt: Zugzwang - A situation where every possible move or decision is a bad one, or one that will result in damage or loss.
Author's Note: Sequel to "Close the Book."
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.


He was going to have to consider his next move very, very carefully.

Will sat back with a sigh, trying to relax, leaning his head against the cushions of the couch and closing his eyes. Hannibal knew that there was something different about him. It was obvious that the other man had suspicions, and that wasn't a good thing at all.

He had to be more careful, had to make Hannibal think that he had no suspicions. His life might depend on it, and he couldn't take any risks.

But wasn't taking risks what this little dance with Hannibal was all about? If he didn't risk anything, then there was no reason for him to be playing this game. If he didn't put anything on the table, then Hannibal wouldn't pick up the gauntlet.

This wasn't a game. It never had been.

Oh, it was probably a game to Hannibal, he thought. Hannibal saw everything as a game, one that he was going to win. He never thought that he could lose.

That was going to be what tripped him up in the end, Will told himself. His own hubris, his own pride and egotism. He thought that he was so much better than everyone else, that all humans other than himself were worms and that he had the right to lord it over them.

Hannibal would find out that he was wrong, and Will wanted to be there, to have a front-row seat, when he was brought down and cut down to size.

Right now, he had a lot of options open. But Will knew that things wouldn't stay that way; dealing with a monster like Hannibal Lecter wasn't going to be easy. He already knew that from what Hannibal had put him through in the past; he would have to watch his back.

It would be all too easy for Hannibal to enclose him in a trap, as he'd done before. He had to be more wary and careful than he'd ever been.

This situation could so easily turn bad in every respect.

If he wasn't careful, he'd be entrapped in a kind of zugzwang, where every decision he made was a bad one, and every choice led to nothing but disaster. Hannibal had managed to catch him in a situation like that before; he had to avoid it this time around.

He couldn't let down his guard for even a moment. He had to constantly remember what kind of a devious mind he was dealing with, and act accordingly.

Will knew that even one wrong move in this game could spell disaster for him; it was like playing chess, the pieces intricately arranged, any number of moves capable of spelling victory -- or defeat. He had to be able to visualize those moves, to keep one step ahead.

This situation could be even more dangerous than he'd thought.

Hannibal was a killer. He would stop at nothing to protect himself; Will already knew that. Hannibal had already proven that he didn't care who he harmed.

Will had thought that they were friends, had actually been foolish enough to think that Hannibal cared about him. He'd been proven wrong when his so-called "friend" had set him up, framed him, and sent him to prison for crimes that he was innocent of committing.

Hannibal would have let him die. He would have let Will receive the death penalty for those crimes, would have let an innocent man perish for his evil.

That wasn't friendship. That was nothing but pure evil, and though it had been done in self-preservation, that carried no weight with Will.

He had nearly been the victim of an evil, scheming murderer, someone who had no respect for human life. His own life would have been forfeit to that evil, and though Hannibal might have pretended to feel a certain sadness at the loss of that life, he wouldn't have really cared.

Hannibal was incapable of caring, incapable of emotion, incapable of even the slightest bit of human feeling or decency. He was a monster in every sense of the word.

And Will was determined to see that monster vanquished.

But at the moment, he was unsure of which way to turn. Did Hannibal suspect that he was hiding his real feelings behind a mask of friendship? Did that devious mind even suspect what was going on in Will's own mind, the malice he bore towards Hannibal?

If his nemesis had even the slightest conception of the hatred that Will felt towards him, he would show no mercy, and no hesitation.

He wouldn't just look for a way to put Will behind bars this time. Hannibal would try to kill him, and Will had no doubt that he would keep trying until he succeeded. So his only option was to make sure that Hannibal was behind bars before he could attempt to do so.

He had to make sure that monster was locked away for good.

Not only for his own safety, but for the safety and well-being of so many other people as well, Will thought to himself. He had to keep Hannibal from killing again.

He only hoped that he wouldn't have to sacrifice himself in the process. From another person's point of view, that might be a small sacrifice; but it was his life that could hang in the balance, and that life was precious to him, even though it might not seem like much.

On the outside, his life might not look as though he had much going for him, but to him, that life was full, and he had no intention of giving it up.

But at the moment, it seemed like every path he could turn down was fraught with danger. He didn't want to put anyone else in Hannibal's path, but everything that he could see clearly as a result of any decision he made might involve doing just that.

It wasn't right to expect anyone else to take on the danger that he knew he could be in, not fair to expect them to embrace the zugzwang that he had to consider his own.

No matter what he did, there would be some sort of loss, some damage done.

That zugzwang couldn't be avoided, at least not for himself. But he would make damn sure that no one else had to suffer any losses; there had already been too many of those for the families of innocent people who Hannibal had murdered. There would be no more.

As much as he hated the idea of being a sort of sacrifice, even if it didn't mean giving his life away, he'd do it to avoid more killing, more innocent people dying at Hannibal's hands.

He wasn't a hero, Will reflected. He never had been, and never would be, no matter who might look at him in that light. But he had a job to do, as an FBI agent, and part of that job was protecting people, saving lives. He would do that job, no matter what it took.

No matter what the cost to himself might be.

Will opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. Even though it seemed as if he would lose no matter which way he turned, he was determined to change those odds.

He wouldn't let Hannibal win. Not this time. That monster had taken too many innocent lives, and wrecked the lives of the families that had been bereaved. He had destroyed too much to be allowed to keep doing so; it was past time for him to be put behind bars, where he belonged.

And regardless of the zugzwang that felt as though it was closing in around him, Will knew that he was the only person who could do that.

If the cost was too high, then he would have to live with it.