"all night running, until at last morning broke the cold earth
and I carried you home,
a river shaking in the sun."
—Windigo, Louise Erdrich
It begins to snow when his legs feel like they're on fire.
Will opens his eyes, blinking out drowsiness. The muscles in his bare calves tense and burn like being stripped raw. He's outside.
He doesn't remember getting outside, or even opening a door.
Overhead, through birch branches twined like a labyrinthine ceiling, the sun is just a thin, gray spot among the clouds. The woods bordering his property in Wolf Trap have an eerie beauty to them and appear still with the new snowfall. He's freezing. Will remembers falling asleep with a stretched band shirt from his youth and a pair of featureless boxers.
The wind picks up, giving a brutal assault to his exposed parts. All parts of him. He's somehow completely without his clothes.
Will shivers, groaning out a low, confused whimper, but he doesn't move himself from where he stands, arms dangling limply at his sides. Fire shoots up and down his legs, as if he's been running for days. And now his feet slowly ache, a late reaction to finally coming around. His mouth tastes funny, the inside of it coated slick and furry. Nausea flares in him.
Like he had been chewing on… jesus christ, it tastes like moss.
What the freakin' hell was going on?
Panic grapples at his lethargy.
The sound of crunching snow alerts him of someone coming. Will barely has the strength to lift his head, the curled ends of brown hair touched with ice-crystals. But he knows that voice, the dark, raspy edge of an accent. Would probably know Hannibal's voice within a massive crowd… if he ever dared himself to be a part of one.
It—he is a safe place.
Hannibal steps forward, bundled up properly for the cold weather unlike his patient, but keeps a distance. Enough to not give the naked man a reason to jolt away.
He says Will's name, murmuring.
"Can you hear me?"
Will nods after a moment, nostrils flaring slightly. Air hurts. "Mm."
"Do you know where you are?"
"Mhm," Will answers in a rumble, nodding again, unable to manage much of his own voice. His vocal cords feel as raw as his legs, overused. Head spinney.
"That's good, Will. I wanted to stop by for an early visit, but your home was empty and your door was left open. The dogs are safely inside; I've locked the door. Your footprints led me here. Can you tell me what you were doing?" There's no prying from Hannibal, not a harsher, demanding quality anyway, perhaps because he asks this so softly.
It sounds very important to him that he knows why Will decided to go streaking though Virginia winter.
And honestly, Will would like to know why, too. He didn't even remember dreaming.
Will's head shakes once, barely-there.
"When did you cut yourself, Will?"
The clean nature of the snow beneath Will's aching feet seeps red, bright and fresh with blood. Tears stupidly building in the corners of his eyes.
He thinks really hard about getting that brain scan. Has been thinking about it, off and on for the past week. Has considered going to Alana about her professional opinion on the subject. Or not professional. She would probably tell him to do what feels comfortable. (Nothing does.) He's… terrified of getting any real answers.
But, it's… it's got to be better than waking up bare-ass in his woods, a mile or so from home, shivering and fucking bleeding.
To hell with it, Will should ask Hannibal to cart him off to the immediate care right now.
On second thought, put him in the goddamn padded room they've been reserving for him. Mail Jack Crawford his resignation letter. It's over.
(The horror. The horror…)
"William," comes out as a frosty swirl of breath. Hannibal's thick, expensive leather gloves clasp to Will's bony, pale wrists. The physical sensation grounds him back from spacing.
Not just that, but gentle, so… so gentle.
"There will be time for considering the situation. I think it would be best to move you inside before hypothermia sets in further," Hannibal says, patiently. The mild show of concern replaces with stern direction. "We're not far from one of the nearby roads. My car is parked there."
Will's throat clicks when he swallows.
"Wh'ss… wrong with mmh?" His words are beginning to slur, which is not a good sign at all. His entire body feels clumsy, debilitated.
"There's nothing wrong with you. Your mind is disassociating. You were sleepwalking." Will wishes selfishly for a moment that he could feel the skin on Hannibal's hands. Maybe cradle them. Maybe have Hannibal rub his palms against his. They must be warm. "Your mind is attempting to operate with the traumatic images you see every day."
He's been wandering down highways in the middle of the night, climbing on the roof of his house. And now, Will finds he's been eating moss like a wild animal in his sleep.
Something has to wrong with this.
Hannibal knows this, he has to. He's just working around the red-alert alarms, trying to not set them off.
Ohh, they're ringing, baby. Loud and clear.
Will does tilt his head up, blinking the glassy-eyed fear out. Hannibal watches him expressionless, eyes on Will's tightened, red-chapped face, the unshed tears. Gloved thumbs roll circles to the undersides of wrists. It would be nice— confusing, yeah, but nice. Will's focus slips, pinning instead on the impressively large, dark shadow leaping between two trees.
It sharpens, forming angles, forming bulk and a pelt. It snorts out puffs of white, shaking its antlers and hindquarters, pawing noisily at the earth beneath it.
Coherent thoughts drain from him, as well as the ability to stand. Will gives one last, violent shiver, bloodshot eyes rolling.
He's thankfully spared from landing on his face when the other man catches him under his armpits. Hannibal bends down into an effortless crouch, letting his friend's weight drop forward. He lifts Will into a fireman's carry, adjusting him like a lifeless carcass, but much more precious.
The fact is… Hannibal won't tell Jack what's happening. It's not his place.
There will be much to discuss later, but away from the unforgiving elements. Warmed by the fireplace and thoroughly examined for further injuries.
Blood drips steadily, gathering in the crevices of Will's frost-bitten toes.
NBC'S Hannibal, the poem, quote from Apocalypse Now, and most of the Wendigo story references are not mine. But I really, reeeeeally needed to make something out of them ever since I've gotten into this show. Will's downward spiral of his mental state and perception of reality and him seeing the stag everywhere, unnnfff. So, yeah, this was basically me shoving all my favorite legend tidbits about the Wendigo, including from: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Native American mythology, and Algernon Blackwood's horror fiction. In short: Will is suffering from Wendigo Psychosis. (And we all know wwwwwwwwhy. *nomnomnom Hannibal's tasty scrambled eggs*) Oh and I can't resist some pre-slash. Any comments are deeply appreciated. I'd love to hear what you thought.