Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story are the property of Thomas Harris, Bryan Fuller, and their related affiliates. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.
Summary: Will has a nightmare at Molly's house. This results in fluff.
Author's Notes: Will needs someone to be nice to him without any ulterior motives (Hannibal and Jack) or reservations (Alana).
I guess I could have done this with Bev too, but Molly Foster's been hanging out in my head a lot lately. Apologies.
Holding Back the Night
Will's first thoughts upon waking – that he did not know where or when or who he was – were quickly overwhelmed by the scent of blood and sweat in the air. The former was only a phantom; the latter was true. Will's whole body was slick with sweat, and when he wiped it away, the oppressive heat and dark lingered instead.
His eyes took a moment to adjust to the dark, but when they did, the nightmare faded and the questions began to answer themselves. "It is two-eighteen a.m.," Will whispered in the dark. An analogue clock face glowed blue on the night table near him in the dim moonlight and told him that much. The clothing strewn on the floor near the bed gave him the where. "I am in Great Falls, Virginia." He glanced over his shoulder to the pale, sleeping form beside him. "I am Will Graham."
The night started coming back to him after that, now that he had a clearer idea of who was. He kissed her in the kitchen and had her shirt off by the stairs. No, wait, before that: a fire, margaritas. Some men bring flowers; Will brought her fish, and she liked those just as well, possibly more. They cooked them in cast iron at her fire pit, watched the sun go down over the fields, and then, in her kitchen, washing dishes...something about her hands and forearms in soapy water...
Then they kissed. Her shirt came off on the stairs. They came the bed, where Will tracked the time in touches before falling asleep. Before, evidently, they even got their underwear off.
Will peeled the blankets from his body and slipped out of bed as quietly as he could manage. He didn't trust the floor here not to creak, but he didn't trust lying next to her either. The shivers were just starting, now that his heart wasn't trying to break out of his chest, and he had already made a mess of their night together. He didn't want her to wake up and find he'd soiled her bed and had a full-blown case of the chills. The kind of thing didn't generally lend itself to sociability, and Will wanted to remain sociable with Dr. Foster.
Molly. He could call her Molly. They were familiar enough now.
He closed the door to her en suite before turning on the light, then stood there, blind and shivering, for as long as he could before the sound of sweat dripping onto the floor made his heart accelerate anew. You should have gone home, Will chastised himself. You shouldn't have even come in the first place: you're unstable. And nobody deserves to have an unstable person in their life.
Sweat was pooling between his toes. Will staggered over to her tub and stepped inside to keep from soiling the floor. He had already made enough of a mess of her life tonight. There wasn't enough laundry detergent in the world to wash the smell of sweat and sour off her sheets. She'd have to bleach the bathroom floor. He was sorry. He would clean everything: the guts, the blood, the saliva...the whole mess he'd made of her on the kitchen floor. She would never have to see him again.
Oh, calm down...Will's heart throbbed against his rib cage, clawing its way back into panic. He hugged himself. Come on, come on, calm down, calm down...it's two-twenty-something a.m. I'm in Great Falls, Virginia. I am Will Graham. I'm not a killer. I'm not a killer...Molly Foster was breathing in bed outside the door, what he'd seen was just a dream, and Will was getting ready to leave whenever his heart would let him.
He heard a soft knock on the door followed by his name again. The floor was far too stable in this house, made of the same unflinching material he saw in Molly's eyes right before he started kissing her. "Are you alright?"
There was no answering without giving himself away. Will was shaking too hard for that. But the thought of letting her see him like this only made him shake harder. "I'm fine," he snapped to avoid stammering, and then felt worse for being rude. Softening his tone, Will added, "S-s-sorry I woke you."
"It's okay. I was awake," he heard her fold her arms over her chest. "Can I come in?"
He could just tell her no and she wouldn't, Will knew. Molly didn't impose or intervene; she hovered at a distance and waited for an invitation. But Will didn't want to say no to her; he never wanted to say no to her. He settled on honesty. "I uh...I don't know...I don't know if I want you to see me like this."
Not tonight. Will knew from experience that he could hold back the darkness for a while and have a few more nights before it would be time to leave Molly alone. But until then, he was going to hide all the terrible things about him from her. Better she didn't have to face them too.
Molly, true to his intuition, didn't make a move for the door. "Can I get you anything?"
Will sighed. "Where do you keep your towels?"
Wow. Because that didn't sound creepy. Or disgusting. Will tossed his head back into the wall.
"I'll be back," she said. Her footsteps retreated towards the hall. Will imagined them disappearing and never coming back. He felt the blackout encroaching on his consciousness. It is two-twenty-something a.m. I am in Great Falls, Virginia. I am Will Graham. The shaking brought him back to Molly's bathroom, to the sound of her knocking on the door again.
He tried to get up but his legs had cramped from the shakes. Will rubbed his hands over his face and hugged himself tighter, trying not to think about what a straight jacket felt like. "You can come in," he said with a staccato burst of mirthless laughter. He didn't have any other choice.
Molly opened the door slowly, fresh towel flopped over one arm. The expression on her face was of gentle concern – eyes narrowed, lips slightly parted, brows curved upwards toward the centre of her face. How she managed to express that without any kind of judgment was both terrifying and comforting to Will, who wished he could shake whatever killer was still in his head so he could see what she saw. He gave her a small, unsteady wave and a sheepish smile.
She approached him with the same gentle calm she used around frightened animals. No sudden movements, a slightly downturned gaze, hands always in view. "You don't..." Will started to say, but then he realized that no, she really did. She absolutely did. He was scared and exposed and cold and haunted, and Molly's stability was exactly the kind of behaviour he wanted to reflect right now.
He thought she might stay on the outside of the tub. Molly, however, had received her invitation and no longer felt compelled to keep her distance. She sat on the ledge opposite Will and handed him the towel. "Thank you," he said, shoving his face into the fluffy green fabric in one last ditch effort to hide.
When he emerged, red and dry, Molly's hand came to rest softly on his brow. "You're burning up," she said, sighing. Her fingers carefully probed his cheeks, opening his eyes for her examination. Will was stock still. Physical contact had always made him wary, but for some reason, he didn't mind so much right now. Molly wasn't looking for any signs of insanity. She was like the MRI: cataloguing his body's needs while his mind churned off uninhibited. Will found himself pretending with her that he was just physically ill instead of careening headlong into mental illness.
"I have nightmares," he offered, wrapping the towel around his torso. Molly's assistance was unseen, but Will knew she had to be guiding him right now. His body wasn't nearly still enough to operate. "V-v-vivid nightmares. I wake up like this. Sometimes."
Will waited for the usual round of questions – what kind of nightmares? Are you seeing someone? What was your relationship with your mother like? I spend too much time with psychiatrists – but they never came. Molly just nodded. Nightmares. Right. Her mind was already moving on to the next course of action. Will felt a degree or two warmer at the thought. It was nice to be with someone who didn't need to stop and analyze everything he said.
The silence of the room started eating away at him though. Will's mind started to fill the empty spaces with Tobias's serenade, with all the screams from Hobbs's house, with splashes of blood and songs from steel blades. He lowered the towel. "I should go," he said.
"I'm not letting you drive like this."
"I'm fine." Her expression forced Will to correct himself, "I'll be fine."
"Then wait until you're fine," she replied. "I'm going to get you some Aspirin and water. Why don't you take a shower? Might help you feel better."
The thought of a shower did quiet Will's body somewhat, as did the offer of Aspirin. His headache was starting to assert itself not that everything else wasn't crying for attention. He nodded shakily in assent to Molly but couldn't say anything.
She understood. Heaven help her, Molly understood completely, or at least pretended to very, very well. She squeezed his shoulder and rose from the tub. "I'll get you a clean towel. There's plenty of soap and shampoo in there. Just help yourself."
Will managed to look her in the eyes. Molly's irises were the colour of earth and were as close to solid ground as he had ever known. He wanted to apologize, but something told him – probably her eyes – that sorry wasn't the right thing to say right now. In lieu of other options, Will settled on, "Thank you."
Molly smiled at him tenderly. "You're welcome."
She returned a second later with another stack of towels, all plush and freshly laundered, along with some fresh pyjama pants and a t-shirt. "I'm going to leave the door unlocked just in case, okay?"
"Okay," Will managed to stand by this point.
"You call me if you need anything."
Nodding made him dizzy. Will stopped and stared at the wall to steady himself. When he looked up, Molly was gone and the door was latched.
She and Doctor Lecter could start a school for sneaking about, Will thought. They both had PhDs in it apparently.
He stripped off his towel, soaked t-shirt, and briefs; closed the curtain, and ran the water as hot as he possibly could. For a long time he stood under the steady stream of water, tracing the slow burn on his skin back to himself, away from the murder and mayhem of his nightmares. It is two-something a.m. I am in Great Falls, Virginia. I am Will Graham. He grabbed one of the pumice stones on the ledge of the bath tub and scrubbed the rest of the sweat from his skin and hair. It is almost three a.m. I am in Great Falls, Virginia. I am Will Graham.
The pyjamas were a size too small on him, but they were dry. Will dried his hair one last time to dry it before letting the towel drape around his shoulders. She had been right; the shower had revived him somewhat. It had buried some of those darker places in his mind, washed away whatever was clouding Will Graham up there, and he felt his own fatigue starting to come back to him. The door gave him pause though. He didn't want to crawl back into that body soiled mess of a bed out there, didn't want to face how badly his messed up brain had messed up their night together. Couldn't they just pretend this never happened? Go back to the moment when Will showed up on her porch with fresh fish, rambling about seafood allergies and peskatarians like a thirteen year old with a crush, and instead of following her inside, he could turn back to the car and heading for home?
He closed his eyes, made a fist, counted very patiently to ten. Because tonight was, up until the panic attack, worth remembering. And if this was the first of many or first and last, Will wanted to hang onto the way her auburn hair seemed to burn in the sunset; the way she looked with her arms half buried in soapy dishwater; the salty-citrus taste of her mouth when he kissed her not as a clutch for balance. Well, not only as a clutch for balance. She was someone who made him laugh, who made him feel safe and warm and wanted. Will could black out a lot of other things in his life, but tonight with Molly wasn't one of them.
So he finished hanging the towels and stepped out of the bathroom.
The night air breezed in from the window, washing away the odour of perspiration with the cold, clear scent of fresh rain. Will searched for other signs of his earlier panic, but there were none. The bed had been remade with fresh sheets and pillowcases. Molly was folding up their clothes and stacking them on her hope chest in neat piles. "There's Aspirin and water for you there on the table," she said. "I also put the kettle on downstairs in case you wanted a cup of tea."
Will tried not to ask how she did it. How she acted as if this was normal. He had lived with nightmares his entire life and he still couldn't respond this normally to them. "Water's good. Thank you," he managed to reply. He took two tablets out of the bottle and drank them down.
Molly brushed up beside him and ran a hand over his cheek. "You feeling better?"
Oh, if only she knew. Will smiled somewhat sardonically and nodded. "Little bit."
"You look better," she removed her hand. "Your colour's back. Temperature's down too. Do you still want to go home?"
No. "I want to do whatever you want to do."
"I want to go back to bed," she shrugged, "but if you'd rather go back to your own bed..."
"I'd..." Will swallowed hard. He had already screwed this up enough. He should just go home. Back to the empty bed that still tingled with Georgia Madchen's presence; back to the mattress he shared with Elyse Nichols; to wrapping himself up in musty towels after awakening... "I'd like to stay. With you. If that's...if that's okay."
The dogs would be fine without him. Dogs didn't have nightmares.
Molly smiled softly and gave a single nod. "I'd like you to stay too."
"I'm sorry for falling asleep earlier."
"You're tired," she shut the window.
"Yeah, I'm tired," he tried not to laugh. It was funny to hear someone say it so simply and mean it that way though. Everybody else carried all the assumptions about him in their speech. Molly didn't come with any hidden meanings; she didn't use double speak or euphemisms. She really was just saying that he was tired.
He slid back under the covers with her, negotiating the space of the bed with more care now that they were actually just trying to get some sleep. Molly turned out the light, but the darkness seemed different now that Will had his bearings. Less predatory, more comforting: the disorientation was gone, as was the accompanying panic and threat of a blackout. He got bold in that moment. If this was going to be his last night with Molly Foster, and she had every right to walk away, Will at least wanted one last good memory to hold onto.
He had his hand halfway between them when Molly slid towards him. Her torso rested on his arm. "Is this okay?" she asked.
Will hadn't realized he'd stiffened until then. It was fine when he initiated contact with others – rare as those instances were – but having someone else initiate it still made him freeze. "Yeah," he wished he could sound surer of himself, but there was no way to do that with his heart in his throat. "Yeah, this is fine."
"Because I can-"
"Well, so can I-"
He took a deep breath and inched closer. Not so close that he felt invaded, but not so far that her arms could no longer reach around him. Which they did, lightly, just enough to keep him anchored. Will didn't need to look back at the clock anymore. He didn't need to tell himself he was in Great Falls. And after she breathed, "Good night, Will," he knew exactly who he was.